The National Catholic Register is reporting that the study, "Consideration of Priesthood and Religious Life Among Never-Married U.S. Catholics", conducted by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), found that three percent of men and two percent of women have seriously considered a religious vocation.
This two and three percent figure translates into large numbers.
“This is equivalent to 350,000 never-married men and 250,500 never married women,” said the survey. “Shepherding more of these individuals on the path to seeking a vocation would likely require a combination of greater outreach from the Church, encouragement from others, assistance in obtaining education prerequisites and dealing with other issues such as student loan debt.”
Among the survey’s additional findings:
• Both men and women were nearly twice as likely to consider a vocation when encouraged by another person to do so.
• Women who participated in a parish youth group during their high-school years were more than nine times as likely to consider becoming a religious sister, whereas male respondents who participated in a parish youth group during their primary-school years were five times as likely to consider a religious vocation than those who did not.
• The study also showed a correlation between various practices, such as weekly Mass attendance, participation in Bible study, retreats, prayer groups or Eucharistic adoration, those who pray the Rosary or whom have a devotion to Mary, those who participate in parish ministry and those who regularly read the Bible or pray with Scripture, with those who are especially likely to have considered a vocation.
• For male respondents, those who attended World Youth Day or a National Catholic Youth Conference were more than four times more likely than those who had not to consider becoming a priest or brother.
• Female respondents who attended a Catholic primary school were more than three times as likely than those who didn't to consider becoming a religious. By comparison, males who attended a Catholic secondary school were six times as likely to have considered a vocation.
“Overall, there’s definitely been an increase in inquiries about religious life over the last eight years,” said Patrice Tuohy, executive editor of the Vision vocation guide, a publication of the National Religious Vocation Conference. “The Internet has helped to increase awareness and inquiries.”
Their site receives an average of 250,000 visitors annually, with 30,000 people saying they are seriously considering religious life. Six thousand of those visitors fill out the website's "Vocation Match" tool, with the majority being under the age of 30.
“There are many who continue to be attracted to religious life,” Tuohy told the Register. “There are three things we know, based on the 2009 CARA study on religious vocations, about those entering religious life today: We know that they are very interested in communal living, prayer and Catholic identity.”
Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, was heartened by news of so many young people who are considering vocations.
“The challenge is to pastor and guide these individuals more effectively," he said. "This will require greater and more consistent encouragement from others, particularly within the family, and a more urgent focus on access to Catholic education for our young people.”
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