Aspirant Demographics

Labouré Society Vocations Demographics

More than 240 individuals have been ordained, professed vows, or entered formation with the assistance of Labouré since 2003.

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National Vocations Demographics

priest and religious charts

In-depth Analysis

Worldwide US US %
Bishops 5,132 450 8.80%
Priests (diocesan and religious) 413,418 42,261 10.20%
Permanent Deacons 40,914 16,919 41.40%
Religious Brothers 55,085 4,736 8.60%
Religious Sisters 713,206 55,129 7.70%
Catechists 3,125,235 415,179 13.30%
Total Catholics 1,213,591,000 70,536,000 5.80%
* CARA Data through December 31, 2011

United States Data

1965 1975 1985 1995 2005 2013
Diocesan Priests 35,925 36,005 35,052 32,349 28,702 26,558
Religious Priests 22,707 22,904 22,265 16,705 14,137 12,079
Total Priests 58,632 58,909 57,317 49,052 42,839 38,637
Priestly Ordinations 994 771 533 511 454 457
Graduate Level Seminarians 8,325 5,279 4,063 3,172 3,308 3,694
Permanent Deacons NA 898 7,204 10,932 14,574 17,524
Religious Brothers 12,271 8,625 7,544 6,535 5,451 4,426
Religious Sisters 179,954 135,225 115,386 90,809 68,634 51,653
Parishes 17,637 18,515 19,244 19,331 18,891 17,572
Without a Resident Priest 549 702 1,051 2,161 3,251 3,389*
Entrusted to Non-Priest NA NA 93 314 553 459*
Catholic Population 45.6m 48.7m 52.3m 57.4m 64.8m 66.8m
Percent of US Population 24% 23% 23% 23% 23% 21%
* These two statistics were not available at press time. Check the CARA website for updated statistics on these two items.

Religious Life

NRVC, Published February 2013

Student Loan Challenges

  • Educational loans prevent men and women from pursuing a vocation. Every third person who inquires about religious life has an average student loan of $28,000 (the average of those who come to Labouré is $60,000 + interest).
  • Seven out of ten communities have turned some inquirers away within the last ten years because of their loans.
  • One third of communities say that some serious inquirers do not pursue an application because of their loans, while another one third does not complete their application because of their student loans

Other Challenges

  • Only Thirty percent of newer entrants to religious life indicate that their parents very much encouraged them in their desire to pursue a vocation.
  • Religious life in the US has traditionally drawn its membership from immigrant populations. Those who may consider a vocation today may be discouraged by citizenship status or educational perquisites for institute entrance.
  • Being integrated into a Catholic culture increases the likelihood of the consideration of a vocation. There is a correlation that those who attend Catholic schools, participate in parish youth groups, know a priest, sister, or brother, and are invited to think about a religious vocation tend to be more open to a religious vocation.

Gender Statistics

Women in Religious Institutes

  • Enter at age 32 on average
  • Tend to consider a vocation prior to age of 14
  • Are 3x more likely to consider a religious vocation if they attended Catholic primary school
  • Are more likely to hear about their institute through a friend

Men in Religious Institutes

  • Enter at age 30 on average
  • Tend to consider a vocation during college years
  • Are 6x more likely to consider a religious vocation, if they went to a Catholic secondary school
  • Are more likely to encounter their institute in a school or organization served by the institute

General Information

  • As many as 350,000 never married men and 250,000 never married women have seriously considered becoming a priest, sister, or brother.
  • Those of the millennial generation are even more likely than the generation before them to consider a vocation.
  • Those entering religious life today are younger than those who were entering 10 years ago.
  • People who attend a Catholic school, know a priest, sister or brother, or who have been invited by a priest, sister, or brother to enter the priesthood or religious life are more likely to consider seriously a religious vocation.
  • Some religious institutes continue to attract and few are experiencing significant growth. About 20% of religious institutes have more than 5 members in formation.
  • Those coming to religious life today tend to be optimistic in their outlook, tolerant of differences among people, and positive in their attitudes towards authority. They believe religious life will persevere.
  • In 2009, there were over 2,600 men and women in religious formation in the United States.
  • There are more men preparing to be religious priests and brothers (more than half) than are women preparing to be sisters (less than half).
  • The retention rate is 50% (it is higher for women than men).
  • The ‘face’ of religious life is changing in the US. Compared to finally professed members who are 94% white Caucasian, newer entrants are more likely to be non-Caucasian: 21% are Hispanic/Latino/a; 14% are Asian or Pacifica Islander and 6% are African, Black, or African American.
  • Newer entrants are well educated. About 70% have at least a bachelor’s degree upon entrance. However, one-third of applicants have at least $20,000 in educational loans when they enter.
  • Religious institutes are more likely to attract newer members if they have a strong Catholic identity, if they are hopeful about their future, if their members live together in community, and if they have a structured prayer life.
  • Although newer members desire ministry (70% were already involved in full or part-time ministry prior to entrance), their primary reasons for coming to religious life are a sense of call, a desire to deepen their prayer and spiritual life, and a desire to live with others who share their faith and values.
  • Approximately 160 women and men professed perpetual vows in religious life in 2012. About 110 of these newly professed were sisters of nuns.

NRVC/CARA Report on Recent Vocations to Religious Life (2009)

USCCB/CARA Report on the Consideration of Priesthood and Religious Life Among Never-Married US Catholics (2012)

NRVC/CARA Study on Educational Debt and Vocations to Religious Life (2012)

USCCB/CARA Report on New Sisters and Brothers Professing Final Vows in Religious Life (2013)