Washington D.C. (CNA/EWTN News) – Last year at least 240 Catholic men and women professed perpetual religious vows in the U.S., and a new survey provides a statistical snapshot of who they are and where they came from.
Those who made final vows tend to be cradle Catholics with multiple siblings and attended Catholic schools.
The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University sought information from superiors of religious institutes on religious professions in 2018. The center analyzed the results in a report for the U.S. bishopsí Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.
Researchers received responses from 530 of 730 major superiors, a response rate of 71 percent, who reported 240 members who professed perpetual vows in 2018. Of these, researchers secured responses from 162: 92 sisters and nuns and 70 brothers and priests.
About 80 percent of religious institutes reported that no one professed perpetual vows in 2018. About 13 percent had one member profess, while seven percent reported two or more.
The average age of respondents was 38, with a median age of 35. The youngest was 22 and the oldest was 75. About 70 percent said their race or ethnicity is white. About 16 percent identify as Asian, and 10 percent as Hispanic.
More than two-thirds of respondents were U.S.-born, with Vietnamese-born being the second highest, with eight respondents.
About 90 percent were baptized Catholics as babies, while 10 percent are converts. Among these converts, the average age at adult conversion was 19.
For 78 percent of respondents, both parents were Catholic. Only about 20 percent were only children, with 18 percent having one sibling, 34 percent having two or three siblings, and 45 percent having four or more.
Respondents were somewhat more likely to have attended a Catholic elementary school and a high school compared to Catholic adults overall, and much more likely to have attended a Catholic college. Fifty percent of newly professed religious attended Catholic elementary school, 38 percent attended Catholic high school, and 36 percent attended a Catholic college.
The respective figures for Catholic adults overall were 39 percent, 19 percent, and 10 percent.
About 23 percent of respondents earned a graduate degree before entering the institute, and more than 71 percent had at least a bachelorís degree.
For the nine percent of respondents who said educational debt delayed their entrance application for their religious institute, their delay in application averaged about 1.4 years and they had to pay down an average of about $35,000. Family members, friends and co-workers tended to be the most common sources for their debt relief.
At least 85 percent of respondents served in church ministry. About half served as lector, while slightly fewer were altar servers or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. About 40 percent worked in faith formation, catechesis, or RCIA, youth or campus ministry, or music ministry. About 25 percent worked in some kind of social ministry while one in six taught at a Catholic school.
About half participated in a youth ministry or youth group, while 33 percent participated in a young adult ministry. About 20 percent participated in World Youth Day, while slightly fewer participated in a Franciscan University of Steubenville high school youth conference.
About 90 percent had a regular private prayer life before entering the institute, with two-thirds taking part in Eucharistic Adoration, praying the rosary, or attending retreats.
Half of respondents were 19 years old or younger when they first began to consider a religious vocation. They were most likely to be encouraged by friends, other religious, or parish priests, rather than family members. About half said at least one person tried to discourage them from discerning a religious vocation, with women more likely to say so. Friends, school classmates, parents or other relatives tended to be most likely to discourage prospective religious, though friends, parents and relatives were also among the most likely to encourage discernment.
Almost all took part in a vocation program or experience during discernment.