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Survey: Most people entering religious life had early faith practice

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J-P Mauro - published on 02/02/23

The USCCB's report paints a picture of the incoming religious: 33 years old, cradle Catholic, early faith participation (nearly half in Catholic school), highly educated.

A new survey commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is examining the backgrounds of those who professed religious vows in 2022. The survey, Women and Men Professing Perpetual Vows in Religious Life: The Profession Class of 2022, was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) which received responses from 114 of the polled individuals. 

Demographics

The average age of the Profession Class of 2022 was found to be 33, with half of all respondents aged under 34 years old. The youngest to enter religious life in 2022 was 25 years old, but the oldest was 75. The vast majority of these (92%) were “cradle Catholics” – born into Catholic families — while the average age of conversion for the remaining portion was about 11 years old.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents were born in the United States. and those from outside the States came at an average age of 21 and lived in the US for an average of 22 years before discerning their vocation. Of the Profession Class of 2022, 88 were men and 80 were women. 

Family backgrounds

Almost all respondents (95%) reported being raised by their biological parents, and the same portion noted that at least one of their parents was Catholic. These families also tended to have multiple children, with 97% reporting siblings. Furthermore, more than one-third of them come from large families, with 35% having four or more siblings. Thirty percent reported having a relative who is a priest or religious. 

Education

The Profession Class of 2022 is highly educated, with 75% entering religious life with a bachelor’s degree and 20% having finished graduate school. Nearly half (48%) reported attending Catholic elementary school, and 36% continued their Catholic education into high school and college. In comparison, only 16% of all Catholic adults in the US attend Catholic elementary school, 8% attend Catholic highschool, and just 5% attend Catholic colleges. 

Faith practice and community participation prior to entering religious life was found to be prominent among the 2022 class. Nearly 9 in 10 (87%) reported participating in one or more religious programs or activities before entering religious life. A solid half were in youth groups, 42% were a part of campus ministries and 35% participated in young adult ministries. 

Prayer was also an extremely present factor among the professing class, with 94% reporting regularly participating in prayer practices or groups. Seventy-seven percent of respondents regularly attended Eucharistic Adoration, and 70% routinely prayed the Holy Rosary or went on retreat with some regularity. 

Read the full report at the USCCB.

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Religious LifeUnited StatesYouth
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