Typical new US priest

The typical member of the priestly ordination class of 2023 is a 34-year-old cradle Catholic, according to a newly released survey of 392 of the 475 men slated to be ordained to the priesthood in the United States this year. The survey was conducted for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

The typical ordinand regularly took part in Eucharistic adoration and prayed the Rosary before entering seminary, according to the survey.

83% of the men were preparing for the diocesan priesthood, with the largest number of responses coming from ordinands in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee (nine) and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati (eight). Among members of religious communities, the largest number of respondents came from the Congregation of Holy Cross (six), Dominicans (six), and Benedictines (five).

38% of the men attended seminaries in the Midwest, 28% in the South, 17% in the Northeast, 12% in the West, and 5% abroad.

23% of the ordinands are foreign born, with the most typical foreign countries of birth being Mexico (5%), Vietnam (4%), Colombia (3%), and the Philippines (2%). On average, these foreign-born seminarians have lived in the United States for 14 years and arrived in the US at age 22.

A disproportionately high percentage of ordinands attended a Catholic elementary school (43%), Catholic high school (32%), or Catholic college (32%).

In addition, a disproportionately high percentage were home schooled: 10% were home schooled, typically for eight years, at a time when 2% of US children were educated at home. If one assumes that all of the homeschooled seminarians came from the United States, then 13% of US-born ordinands were home schooled.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • the typical diocesan ordinand lived in his diocese for 16 years before entering seminary
  • the typical religious ordinand knew members of his religious institute for six years before entering seminary
  • 67% of ordinands are white, 18% are Hispanic/Latino, 11% are Asian, and 2% are black
  • 8% are converts, with the average age of reception into the Church being 23
  • 29% have a relative who was a priest or religious
  • 82% of the time, both parents were Catholic
  • 4% have served in the US Armed Forces; 5% had a parent with a military career
  • 71% regularly prayed the Rosary, and 77% regularly participated in Eucharistic adoration, before entering the seminary
  • ordinands typically first began to consider the priesthood at 16
  • 63% were encouraged by a parish priest to consider a vocation; 41% were encouraged by a parishioner, 41% by a friend, 32% by their mother, and 23% by their father.
  • 45% were discouraged by someone from considering a priestly vocation. 7% were discouraged by a priest; 12% were discouraged by their fathers, 13% by their mothers, 20% by other family members, and 20% by a friend or classmate
  • ordinands, on average, have three siblings; 16% have five or more siblings, and 4% have no siblings
  • 37% are the oldest children in their families; 25% are the youngest
  • 60% had earned their undergraduate degree before entering seminary, and 15% had earned a graduate degree
  • 51% took part in a parish youth group, 33% took part in Catholic campus ministry, 28% took part in Boy Scouts, 24% took part in the Knights of Columbus or Knights of St. Peter Claver, 23% took part in a parish young adult group, and 13% in a pro-life group
  • 12% took part in the charismatic renewal, and 3% in Cursillo
  • 15% took part in a Franciscan University of Steubenville high school youth conference, 15% in a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) SEEK conference, 14% took part in a World Youth Day, and 9% in a National Catholic Youth Conference
  • 71% had served as altar servers, 48% as readers, 41% as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and 32% as catechists before entering seminary
  • 52% participated in a “Come and See” weekend before entering seminary
  • 3% entered seminary in high school, 35% in college, 52% at a pre-theology level, and 10% at a theology level