January 22, 2013
Average age of those professing
perpetual vows is 39
After Caucasians, Asians form
largest group entering religious orders
Half recently professed didn't
consider religious life until older than 18
WASHINGTON—Catholic education in
high school and especially in college stands out as a significant factor in men
and women choosing to enter a religious order, according to an annual survey of
Sisters and Brothers who recently professed perpetual vows. The survey also
found an increase in Asians, particularly Vietnamese, choosing religious life
in the U.S.
data are found in "New Sisters and Brothers Professing Perpetual Vows in
Religious Life," a report on a survey conducted by the Georgetown
University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). The
survey was commissioned by the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated
Life and Vocations. It can be found at www.usccb.org/consecratedlife.
surveyed religious who professed perpetual vows in 2012, reaching a total of
108 sisters and 24 brothers, a response rate of 85 percent of the 156 potential
members of the Profession Class of 2012 identified to CARA by their religious
include the following:
average age of religious of the Profession Class of 2012 is 39.Half are 37 or younger. The youngest
responding sister is 23; the oldest 66. Eight women professed perpetual vows at
age 60 or older. Among brothers, the youngest is 25 and the oldest, 62;
two professed perpetual vows at 60 or older.
two-thirds (69 percent) of the class identify as white, nearly one in six
(15 percent) identifies as Asian, and almost one in ten (8 percent)
identifies as Hispanic. In general the Class of 2012 has a larger
percentage of Asians and much lower percentage of Hispanics than the
percentage of Asians and Hispanics found in the U.S. Catholic population
at large.About two percent of U.S. Catholics are Asian and
at least a third are Hispanic.
- Most (71
percent) were U.S.- born. Of those born outside the U.S., the most common
country of origin is Vietnam (8 percent). Respondents identified 18
different countries of origin.
four in ten religious (43 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, about
the same as that for all U.S. Catholic adults (42 percent). These
respondents, however, are more likely than other U.S. Catholics to have
attended a Catholic high school (36 percent of the religious, compared to
22 percent of U.S. adult Catholics overall) and much more likely to have
attended a Catholic college (33 percent of the religious, compared to just
7 percent of U.S. adult Catholics overall).
religious are highly educated. Twenty-two percent earned a graduate degree
before entering their order (including 37 percent of brothers and 19
percent of sisters/nuns).Six in
ten (60 percent) entered their order with at least a bachelor's degree or
more (58 percent for women and 70 percent for men).
- Most religious
did not report that educational debt delayed their application for
entrance to their institute.For
those who did, they averaged two years of delay while they paid down an
average of $19,500 in educational debt.
eight in ten religious (82 percent) had work experience prior to entering
their religious institute. Women are more likely than men to have been
employed in education or health care. Men are more likely to have been
employed in business or church ministry.
religious were active in parishes before entering their institute.Almost half (45 percent) participated in
youth ministry or a youth group. One quarter (25 percent) participated in a
young adult ministry or group, Catholic campus ministry/Newman Center,
and/or World Youth Day.
nine in ten (88 percent) had ministry experience before entering their
religious institute, most commonly in faith formation (46 percent). Women
were more likely to participate in faith formation or liturgical
ministries (except altar servers), while men more commonly reported
hospital or prison ministries, altar server, or teaching in a Catholic
average, responding religious report that they were 20 years old when they
first considered a vocation, but half were 18 or younger when they first
- Eight in
ten (82 percent) say they were encouraged to consider religious life by
someone. Responding religious
ranked parish priests highest for their support (44 percent of women and
58 percent of men), with encouragement from religious sisters and brothers
coming second (43 percent for women 38 percent for men).
- The women
who responded to the survey represent 64 religious congregations,
provinces or monasteries. The brothers come from 19 different
congregations, provinces, or monasteries.
Keywords: vocations, U.S. Bishops, U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops, Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, CARA, Sisters,
brothers, monks, monasteries, convents, Catholic education
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MEDIA CONTACT ONLY:
Sr. Mary Ann Walsh