Why encouraging others to consider the priesthood makes an amazing difference

Are you among those who encourage others to consider a vocation as a Catholic priest?

If there’s one question every parishioner should be asking–this is it– because it makes a world of difference according to the most recent statistics on what makes men want to be priests.

One of the leading indicators of who inspired their vocation to the priesthood is parish priests, followed by parishioners, according to “Survey or Ordinands to the Priesthood,”  by The Center for Applied Research (CARA) at Georgetown University. 

Asking a man if he ever considered a vocation is a sure-fire way to help them in the discernment process. That’s because out of all the men being ordained this year to the priesthood across the nation:

  • Most (63%) cited parish priests as those who most encouraged their vocation, followed by parishioners (44%), friends (40%), mothers (37%) and fathers (29%).

As we reflect on this statistic it’s worth asking how we help others discern their vocation through prayer and encouragement.

A Snap Shot of our New Catholic Priests

The report offers an insightful glimpse into the lives of our soon-to-be ordained Catholic priests. 

The online survey, which CARA has overseen since 2006, was completed by 334 of the 458 total ordinands from both dioceses and religious orders.

 Overall, this year’s ordinands are on average 33 years old, with ordinands from religious institutes generally four years older than their diocesan counterparts. The report also lists many other interesting data points that show us who are new priests will be. 

What Makes a Catholic Priest?

Some other highlights of the study include:

  • A majority of the 2023 ordinands, 72%, had been altar servers, 51% had been lectors, 40% extraordinary ministers of holy Communion and 33% catechists.
  • The average age when this year’s ordinands first considered the priesthood were on average 16 years old. Ordinands who first considered the priesthood in elementary school constituted 32 percent. In high school, 26 percent, in college 19 percent, and in adulthood, 17 percent. 
  • Those who were homeschooled account for 11 percent of ordinands.
  • Regular Eucharistic adoration figured heavily in the pre-seminary prayer practices of the class of 2023, cited by 73% of the survey participants. Following adoration was the rosary (66%), prayer group or Bible study (45%), high school retreats (37%) and lectio divina (35%).
  • Survey respondents listed among their pre-seminary activities parish youth groups (52%), Catholic campus ministry (27%), Boy Scouts (25%), parish young adult groups (23%) and the Knights of Columbus (23%).
  • The main employment background of ordinands prior to entering seminary was 21 percent in business, 18 percent in education, and 14 percent in sales or customer service.
  • The military background of ordinands represents three percent from the following: 7 served in the Army, 3 in the Air Force, 2 in the Marines, 1 in the Reserves, and 1 in the Navy. 
  • White ordinands accounted for 64% of the 2023 class,16 percent Hispanic/Latino, with 10% Asian and Pacific Islander, 6% Black or African and 3% representing other ethnic backgrounds.
  • A significant number of the 2023 ordinands (25%) were born abroad. After the U.S. the most common countries of birth were Mexico (5%), Vietnam (3%), Nigeria (3%) and Colombia (2%).
  • Overall, ordinands in 2023 came from 28 different countries. 

What Else Can You Do to Support the Catholic Priesthood?

The Apostolate of the laity has always boosted Christian activity throughout the world. Encouraging vocations to the Catholic priesthood and religious life has always been part of the laity’s call.

Pope Paul VI amplified this message with his decree that the ” Church was founded for the purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth for the glory of God the Father, to enable all men to share in His saving redemption,  and that through them the whole world might enter into a relationship with Christ.”

While parents are the first educators of their children, helping them choose their vocation and promoting any sacred vocation they may see in them, it also seems that friends, and other parishioners help deeply in this path.

Three Easy Ways to Pray for Vocations

The “charity of Christ impels us” (2 Cor. 5:14) to pray for vocations and mention them to people we think may have a vocation.

Here’s three simple and fruitful ways you can help promote vocations to those in your own parish community:

  • Pray from the comfort of your home with Father Jerry Byrd’s prayer cenacle book. The cenacle prays for all priests.
  • Learn and pray about the current seminarians at CCJC.
  • Use the myriad of free literature available to give to those you think may have a vocation.