Profile of Americans Taking Perpetual Profession as Religious
On January 23rd, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) released its study of those who professed perpetual vows in the USA in 2012, New Sisters and Brothers Professing Perpetual Vows in Religious Life. The study was conducted by CARA (The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate). One hundred thirty-two of the 156 people to profess perpetual vows in 2012 responded for a 85% return rate. One hundred eight were women and 24 men.
The findings include:
- The average age at perpetual profession was 39. (In the last three years, the average age of Midwest Capuchins professing perpetual vows was 32.)
- Among the men, 67% identified as white, 13% as Asian, 8% as Hispanic, and 4% as African American. No Native-Americans were reported in the group. (In the last three years, 60% of those taking perpetual vows for the Midwest Capuchin Province of St. Joseph were of Asian descent, 2 being Vietnamese. 40% identify as white.)
- Seventy-one percent of respondents were born in the USA. Among those born elsewhere, Vietnamese were in the lead at 8%.
- Eighty-eight of the respondents were Catholic from birth. The average age at conversion of the remaining 12% was 24.
- Among religious institutes reporting, 81% had no perpetual professions in 2012; 14% had only one; 5% had two or more. (In 2012, The Midwest Capuchin Province of St. Joseph was in that small group of 5% with two professing perpetual vows.)
- A whopping 31% had 5 or more siblings, while 80% had two or more siblings.
- Forty-three percent of respondents attended Catholic grade school, close to the national average for all Catholics. However, 36% attended Catholic high school compare to an average of 22% for all US Catholics.
- These religious are highly educated. Thirty-seven percent of the men entered their religious institute with a graduate degree, while 70% had a bachelor’s or higher. (Candidates for the Midwest Capuchins enter with less education than those covered in this survey. Of the 22 men still in the province who joined in 2004 or later, 16 (63%) came without a completed bachelors, 5 (23%) entered with a bachelor’s only, and 1 (4.5%) came with a master’s degree.)
- The average respondent had $19,500.00 in educational debt when (s)he first applied for entrance into his/her religious institute.
- Regarding prayer practices, 73% attended retreats, 69% practiced Eucharistic adoration, 64% prayed the rosary, 62% sought spiritual direction, 55% participated in a faith sharing or bible study group, and 31% practiced lectio divina prior to their entrance into religious life.
- Fifty-eight percent of male respondents were encouraged in their vocation by a parish priest; 38% by a religious sister or brother; and 68% by a friend. This last statistic for men surprisingly towers above the percentage of women who reported encouragement from a friend (38%).
- Among men, the major source of discouragement came from schoolmates or friends (29%) followed by a relative (17%).
- The men knew members of the religious institute they joined for an average of 7 years before doing so.
- Forty-two percent of the men came to know their institute through its ministries; 21% from a friend or relative in the institute; 17% through print or online promotion. Only 4% gained that acquaintance through a vocation event (e.g., vocation fair), and only 4% through a vocation placement or matching service. (Both of the Midwest Capuchin’s members of the group studied (Tom and Tien) attended the Capuchin-run St. Lawrence Seminary High School in Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin.)
It’s always fun to read the statistics from such studies. Usually, they confirm impressions one already holds from experience. But other statistics are really surprising and actually influence how vocation departments spend money and time. For instance, the fact that only 4% of the respondents to this survey used a vocation placement or matching service causes one to question how much money to spend there. The same figure for those having attended vocation fairs causes one to question how much time to spend at them.
A caution is that these statistics change and vary from year to year. Each generation of discerners explore religious life in a different way. So, new and updated surveys and studies are always necessary.
The entire report can be found at http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/consecrated-life/profession-class/upload/profession-class-2012-report.pdf