With kind regards Fr. K. T Emmanuel Secretary to the Archbishop
The news was announced by the United States Episcopal Conference: ordinations up 24.7% on last year
Good news for the American Church. 595 priests are expected to be ordained in 2015: an increase of 24.7 on the previous year. The news was announced by the United States Episcopal Conference, which nevertheless prefers to err on the side of caution. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, and president of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, believes that the numbers give reason to be hopeful and open a reflection on the possibility of future growth. “It is encouraging to see the slight growth in the number of ordainments this year in the United States.” He also observed that the future priests, when asked about “their positive influences while they were discerning the call to priesthood, replied that the support of their families, of the ministers of the parish, and of the catholic schools had counted a lot.”
477 priests were ordained in the United States in 2014. Today’s figures have been welcomed as they seem to confirm the stability of a reversal in the negative trend that had emerged in previous years, with the exception of 2013 when there were 499 candidates. It seems that these numbers mark an end to the consistent decline in numbers. While 1965 saw 994 new ordinations, that number fell sharply to 771 in 1975, 533 in 1985, and just 454 in 2005, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (Cara). In 2010, 459 priests were ordained.
On average, the future priests were around 17 years old when they first considered entering the priesthood. The vast majority of these (seven out of ten) were encouraged to take this path by a priest from their local parish, by friends (46%), by fellow worshipers at their parish (45%), and by their mothers (40%). Of course, the various sources of inspiration do not mutually exclude one another. In general, the candidates have lived for at least 15 years in the diocese or in the eparchy in which they completed their time at the seminary.
A uniquely American problem, however, is that of the debt from the “student loans”, money leant to them to help them pay their tuition fees and living costs and that is only repaid after graduation. “More than 26% of the priests ordained have student debt, at the time of entering the seminary the average owed per capita is 22,500 dollars”, explained Father W. Shawn McKnight, executive director of the Secretariat. He said that in the future they will need to find a way of helping future priests reduce their debts.
The average age of the priests ordained in 2015 is 31. Slightly younger than their colleagues ordained in 2014, but still in line with the model of recent years, i.e. usually entering the priesthood after their 30th birthday.
Two thirds (69%) of those ordained are Americans of Caucasian-European origin; 10% of Asian ethnicity or the Pacific islands, and 14% were Hispanic. A quarter were born outside of the United States, in Colombia, Mexico, The Philippines, Nigeria, Poland, and Vietnam. On average, they have lived 12 years in the USA. Most of them have been Catholic since birth, with just 7% converting to Catholicism later.
84% have (both) parents who are Catholic and 37% have a relative in the priesthood. More than half have attended a Catholic elementary school, which is a significantly higher proportion in relation to Americans in general. The same goes for high schools and colleges. As many as six out of ten have had a fulltime job before entering the seminary. Eight out of ten have served mass, and six out of ten have been readers. Seven out of ten regularly recited the rosary and practiced the adoration of the Eucharist before joining the seminary.