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Survey: Most priests consider their mental, physical health to be good

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J-P Mauro - published on 01/15/24

The pandemic took a toll on US clergy members, both Protestant and Catholic. Many Protestant ministers considered leaving their chosen career.

The pandemic is behind us, but the toll it took on Christian clergymen in the US was high, leaving some teetering on the edge of a burnout. A new survey is measuring the effects of the pandemic years on Catholic priests and Protestant ministers, a portion of whom reached such high levels of stress that they considered leaving their positions. 

The study did find, however, that most priests consider themselves to be in good mental and physical health. The majority of them also reported increasing their spiritual practices since the pandemic began. 

The survey, conducted by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, found that more than 4 in 10 priests and ministers had considered leaving their congregations, since 2020. Furthermore, more than half of them had thoughts of quitting their ministries altogether. Only about 1 in 10, however, reported often having such thoughts of leaving.

To understand the survey, one should consider how some Protestant ministers found their own churches, build up congregations, etc. The survey found that Protestant ministers considered quitting at a much higher rate than Catholic and Orthodox priests.

Tired shepherd, tired flock

Fortune, which presents the survey’s stats, reports that the thoughts of quitting are reflective of a “collective trauma” experienced by priests and ministers during the pandemic. Stressors listed by those surveyed included declining rates in both weekly attendance and volunteering, as well as parish members’ resistance to the changes imposed by pandemic restrictions.

While some of these problems were concerns even before the pandemic, the years of restrictions saw them exacerbate. One priest cited his and his parish’s exhaustion after picking up the slack of departing volunteers. He said many long-time parishioners had moved away since the pandemic began, and the newcomers were far less likely to engage in parish ministries. 

Across the board, however, the percentage of the clergy who considered leaving was higher than in previous surveys. The study did concede that a direct comparison to previous data is difficult, because previous surveys measured only short periods since 2020. 

Click here to read more data from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research’s survey.

COVID-19PriestsUnited States
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