WASHINGTON, D.C. – There were 216 Catholic women and men religious who took perpetual vows in the U.S. in 2016, and an annual survey has aimed to take their pulse.
Of the more than 200 who made perpetual vows, 81 sisters and nuns and 96 brothers and priests responded to the survey of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. The center analyzed the results in a report for the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.
Among those who responded, the median age of newly professed men and women religious is 36, with the youngest at 26 and the oldest at 86. About half of respondents reported that they were under age 18 when they first considered a vocation to the religious life.
Among the questions answered were those about their devotional life. About 66 percent of the professional class named Eucharistic Adoration as one of their prayer practices before entering a religious institute, while a similar percentage named the Rosary or retreats. Almost 60 percent underwent spiritual direction, almost 50 percent took part in faith sharing or Bible study groups, while about one-third practiced the Lectio Divina devotional.
Almost 90 percent were Catholic since birth and 81 percent had two parents with a Catholic background.
About 66 percent of the newly professed identified as white, 16 percent as Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian, and 4 percent as African/African-American/Black.
Another 67 percent were American-born, followed by those born in Asia then Latin America.
Sources of encouragement and discouragement were also examined in the survey. About half said a parish priest encouraged their vocation, while over 40 percent said their friends encouraged their vocation.
However, about half reported that some people in their lives discouraged a vocation, including parents, other relatives, or friends or classmates.
Only four percent reported that they had educational debt before entering religious life, averaging about $29,100. It took these vowed religious an average of four years’ delay to pay down their debt.
Overall, the CARA survey secured responses from 80 percent of religious institutes. Of these, 80 percent reported no perpetual professions, 12 percent reported one perpetual profession of vows, and only eight percent reported that two or more members made perpetual vows.