Almost 80 percent of the men slated for ordination in 2006 completed a college degree before entering the seminary and 30 percent had attained a graduate degree.

The average age of the Class of 2006 is 37, with 22 percent under 30, and four percent over 60.

Almost a third of the men were born outside the United States.

The data were gathered by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat for Vocations and analyzed by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the Catholic Church research group based at Georgetown University, Washington.

Responses to the survey were submitted by 233 seminarians from 98 of the 195 dioceses and 24 of the more than 200 religious orders of men in the United States. The data on this year’s ordination class was released by the USCCB Vocations Secretariat, May 1, as part of an annual report.

A separate survey response was submitted by 144 diocesan vocations directors and heads of 44 religious orders who estimated 359 potential ordinands. Given that about 25 percent of the dioceses and 90 per cent of the religious orders did not respond to the survey it appears that the number of ordinands remains steady. According to the Official Catholic Directory (OCD), the number ordained last year was 438. In 2004, it was 454; in 2003, 472. OCD numbers for 2006 will not be available until next year.

The largest archdiocesan/diocesan class was in the Archdiocese of Newark, the ninth largest archdiocese/diocese with 17 men slated for ordination. The next largest was the Archdiocese of Washington, 12 ordinands; Archdiocese of Denver, 11 ordinands; and the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, 10 ordinands. In Salt Lake City, Utah, where Catholics make up eight percent of the population, there are four ordinands.

Findings from the survey also indicated

– The percentage of ordinands who are Asian (13) is higher than the U.S. Catholic Asian population overall (2). The percentage of Hispanics (12) is lower than U.S. Catholic Hispanic population (28). The percentage of African Americans (one) is lower than the U.S. Catholic African American population (4).

– Of ordinands born outside the United States, the largest percentages came from Vietnam (5), Mexico (5) and the Philippines (3). Seventy percent of all the ordinands were born in the United States.

– The percentage of foreign-born ordinands increased from 24 percent in 1998, to 30 percent in 2006.

– More than half the ordinands attended a Catholic elementary school.

– About 75 percent of the ordinands reported having full-time work experience before entering the seminary, most often in education.

– Almost ten percent had served in the U.S. Armed Forces, more than a third of them in the Navy.

– Six percent of the ordinands are converts to Catholicism.

– More than one-third of the ordinands attended a World Youth Day.

– More than half had served as an altar server, lector, Eucharistic minister, or participated in a parish spiritual retreat.

– Two-thirds of the ordinands were initially invited to consider the priesthood by a priest.

Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid City, South Dakota, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops Committee on Vocations noted the class profile.

“These are quality men,” he said. “They started out in the seminary with strong educational backgrounds and underwent thorough theological education and spiritual, human and pastoral formation throughout their seminary experience. The variety of backgrounds reflects the variety found in the current Catholic community which will welcome them in parishes nationwide. The generosity of these men needs to be met by the entire community promoting and encouraging their sons to become ‘fishers of men.’ God has blessed us once again and we pray for continued blessings.”

The complete report is available here

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