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Eucharistic adoration key to fostering priest vocations: report

Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University released the 2024 'Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood'
A priest holds the Monstrance during the Eucharistic adoration as Pope Francis holds a prayer for Peace at St Peter's basilica in The Vatican on Oct. 27, 2023

A priest holds the Monstrance during the Eucharistic adoration as Pope Francis holds a prayer for Peace at St Peter's basilica in The Vatican on Oct. 27, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 17, 2024 05:50 AM GMT
Updated: April 17, 2024 05:52 AM GMT

Personal encouragement and Eucharistic adoration are crucial in fostering vocations to the priesthood, according to data from a newly released report.

On April 15, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University released the 2024 "Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood," a report made directly to the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The report comes in advance of the 61st annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations, celebrated this year on April 21, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, which is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday in the Latin Church. The Gospel passage (Jn 10:11-18) for the Mass highlights Jesus' role as the Good Shepherd.

The online survey, which CARA has overseen since 2006, was completed by 392 of the 475 total ordinands for 2024 from both diocesan and religious order seminaries who were invited to participate. The ordinands represented 128 dioceses and 29 religious institutes in the U.S.

Most 2024 respondents said they had first considered a vocation when they were 16 years old, and their average age of ordination was 34, a number consistent with the range of 33-37 reported since 1999.

Two thirds (67%) of the ordination class is white; 18% Hispanic or Latino; 11% Asian, Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian; and 2% are Black or African American. About one quarter (23%) of the ordinands are foreign-born -- coming to live in the U.S. on average 14 years ago at 22 years old -- with Mexico (5%), Vietnam (4%), Colombia (3%) and the Philippines (2%) the most common countries of origin among them.

A majority of ordinands (82%) said they grew up with both their parents as Catholic, and 29% reported having a relative who was a priest or religious.

More than half of the respondents (60%) had completed an undergraduate or graduate-level degree prior to entering the seminary, with business, liberal arts, philosophy and engineering topping the areas of study. Between 32% and 42% had attended a Catholic elementary school, high school or college.

Most ordinands (70%) had worked full time before entering the seminary, particularly in education (21%), business (16%) and church ministry (13%).

CARA's executive director, Jesuit Father Thomas Gaunt, told OSV News that direct encouragement of young men to consider priestly life is a "perennial factor" in vocations, with 89% of the respondents, or nine in 10, reporting they had received such support -- usually from a parish priest (63%), friend (41%) or parishioner (41%).

"You could almost say that ... no one shows up at the seminary who was not encouraged," Father Gaunt said. "We generally see that men were encouraged by one, two, three, four different people in their life."

Eucharistic adoration also emerged as significant in vocational discernment, with 75% of the respondents noting they had regularly prayed before the Blessed Sacrament prior to entering the seminary. The rosary was also a favorite devotion for 71% of those surveyed; another 40% practiced lectio divina, or meditative prayer with Scripture.

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