Home » US News » US: average age of new priests is 32

US: average age of new priests is 32


priests-processing-for-chrism-mass(ICN) The average age of men in the USA ordained to the priesthood in 2013 is 32; (on average over the past six years seminarians have been getting slightly younger) two-thirds are Caucasian, and 26 percent carry educational debt.

These figures stand out in The Class of 2013: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood, the annual national survey of men being ordained priests for US dioceses and religious communities. The study was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), a Georgetown University-based research center.

The report is the 17th annual survey of ordinands commissioned by the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). About 74 percent of an estimated 500 men to be ordained priests in the United States in 2013 responded to the survey.

On average, most of the ordination class were baptized as infants, but nine percent became Catholic later in life. Eight in ten report that both parents are Catholic, and more than a third have a relative who is a priest or religious.

On average, respondents report that they were nearly 17 years old when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood. Two in three (67 percent) say they were encouraged to consider a vocation to the priesthood by a parish priest. Others who encouraged them include friends (46 percent), parishioners (38 percent) and mothers (34 percent).

Two-thirds of the respondents (67 percent) report their primary race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white. Compared to the US adult Catholic population, men to be ordained are more apt to be of Asian or Pacific Islander background (10 percent), but less likely to be Hispanic/Latino (15 percent). Compared to diocesan ordinands, new priests for religious orders are less likely to report race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white.

Three in 10 respondents (31 percent) were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Mexico, Vietnam, Colombia, Poland, the Philippines and Nigeria. On average, respondents who were born in another country have lived in the United States for 14 years. Between 20 and 30 percent of respondents for the diocesan priesthood for each of the last ten years were born outside the United States. [More]


Independent Catholic News



  1. Andrew says:

    CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: 1579: All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to “the affairs of the Lord”, they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church’s minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God. 1580: In the Eastern Churches, a different discipline has been in force for many centuries: while bishops are chosen solely from among celibates, married men can be ordained as deacons and priests. This practice has long been considered legitimate; these priests exercise a fruitful ministry within their communities. Moreover, priestly celibacy is held in great honor in the Eastern Churches and many priests have freely chosen it for the sake of the Kingdom of God. In the East as in the West, a man who has already received the sacrament of Holy Orders can no longer marry.

    • Tony says:

      “Normally” is a keyword there are exceptions and there will be more

    • Ann(WOC) says:

      Andrew, quoting the catechism doesn’t answer the question: Why are we talking about age when we are talking about a shortage of priests? Don’t you believe older priests are capable of serving? The issue is shortage, not age; the “burden” would be lifted if there were more ministers to do the work. Instead of robbing parishes from other countries, why can the church not ordain those called to ministry in this country — there would no longer be a shortage? Nowhere did Jesus say that women could not be “ordained.” But he didn’t ordain women, you say. Jesus didn’t marry either, but we don’t assume he was against marriage. The question is also not about celibacy. Those with the charism should be ordained, those without it, if called, should be ordained. Women, men, married, gay and straight — All who are called are entitled to have their calls tested by the community. It’s not about age, or celibacy Andrew, it is about an increasing unavailability of the Eucharist, and the right of every baptized to full sacramental ordination if called and the call is tested as valid.

      • Andrew says:

        Sacred Scripture itself makes it crystal clear that Jesus chose men to be his disciples and chose Peter (a man) to establish His Church. Following Jesus, Peter and the apostles also chose men to lead the Church as priests. It is such a waste of time to carry on about how women should be ordained priests. Male priesthood is an un-changeable dogma of the Catholic Church. Why is it un-changeable? Because Jesus Himself established the priesthood. By the way, vocations to the priesthood are growing in my Diocese and other Dioceses throughout the country. The priest at my parish (who says the beautiful Extraordinary Form) is just 28 years old and is already becoming a magnet for other young men interested in a vocation. Praise God.

        • Ann(WOC) says:

          If Jesus established the priesthood Andrew, why did he ordain married men? The arguement gets ridiculous when one pursues it to its logical conclusion, i.e., we should only be ordaining Jewish men who wear sandals and beards and keep Jewish law. The sacrament of ordination is the sacrament of ministry and responds to the needs of the Eucharistic community. Ordination serves the needs of the community, not male attempts to shore up male authority.

          • Tony says:

            If we study the role of women religious through the years, particularly the role of Abbess, we see many times where her role is similar to Bishop, even to the miter and crozier. It seems too that many of her duties and the role of priest were blurred. interesting.

  2. Ann(WOC) says:

    Why are we talking about age when we should be talking about women? Both young and old ministers are good. Youth brings energy and commitment; age brings wisdom and patience. An only male priesthood however brings only one perspective; we need a balanced perspective brought by women and all – married, straight, and gay – for a full expression of the good news brought by Christ and proclaimed by the church to all nations in all times. Age becomes an issue only when women, married men, and gay persons are excluded. This is not a problem we should have, especially if we were listenting to the Holy Spirit.

    • Howdy says:

      I agree with you, the Church is behind in many ways, but not as much as most people think. I can shed light on some of the issues you brought up. The reason we priests are men is because they are “persona cristi” in place of Christ, who was a man. We call God our father as we do a priest because even though the role of men and women are equal in value, they are not the same in what they do. But I would love to see women become deacons, which right now is not approved and they could still share their insight and give homilies if they could be. Priests aren’t married because they would naturally be more concerned with earthly matters. But I am for married priests b/c I still believe some priests would choose to be celebrant regardless. As for the gays, they can be priests, they just can’t openly practice it.

      • Ann(WOC) says:

        Sorry Howdy, your arguments are not reasonable. If Jesus was a woman and priests were “persona christi” then only women could be ordained? Priests are not “persona Christi”; it is the community, especially at Eucharist which is Persona Christi! Women as deacons simply are a new take on women as servants to male hierarchy. In order for the church to be a wholly Eucharistic community, the sacraments have to be available to all. Finally, celibacy was imposed in the 10th century. The loss of its valuse as gift and chrism has caused much harm and misunderstaning in the church. Earthly matters are as important as “spiritual” matters; emphasis on spiritual to the negation of earthly neglects the real needs of the community, especially the poor and needy, for whom Christ came, today. The only people served by an all male, celibate clergy, even with women deacons, is male dominance not the Eucharistic community that is in desperate of ordained ministers who represent the whole Christ, not some male fantasy of superiority.

  3. Joanna says:

    “Compared to the US adult Catholic population, men to be ordained are more apt to be of Asian or Pacific Islander background (10 percent), but less likely to be Hispanic/Latino (15 percent)”
    So why are we not bringing Hispanics into the priesthood? Aren’t they the fastest-growing ethnic group in the Catholic population in the US?

  4. As a priest for 44 years I ask all priests, all consecrated and all lay people to pray for an end to Abortion and Contraception. This will fill the pews of the church and the ranks in the seminaries. Good Relgious be not discouraged continue to pray and encourage vocations. It is a great life with joy and suffering. It is fulfilling and satisfying. It is rewarding and challenging. It is edifying and suffering. Vocations are given but let us not block them. Sometimes parents discourage their offspring. I am an only child and my parents God Rest them received many blessings.

    • California Mark says:

      Apart from going off-topic (I’m anti-abortion, too but this is an inappropriate forum) you make peculiar assumptions.

      It is doubtful that Catholics are getting so many abortions that churches are empty. I’ve never heard anyone even imply that before; where are your facts? Churches are empty because of the indifference and even hostility of Catholic clergy and “elites” who run parishes to young people, in particular young men. In many places, young adult groups are “killed” by priests who want it to be purely religious (as though it were a quasi-religious order), as opposed to wholesome Christian fellowship. I speak from as a church-attending Catholic male who lived in a dozen cities between the ages of 20 and 35.

      As for the vocation shortage, perhaps God is the one limiting vocations, to prod us on Earth to change things. For example, Eastern Catholics have many very fine married priests. Why shouldn’t the Western church? And don’t quote me “tradition”: Galileo was convicted of heresy and imprisoned for three decades (even after publicly recanting — talk about ecclesiastical spite!) for going against the (untrue and erroneous) tradition that the earth is the astronomical center of the universe.

  5. Florian says:

    That’s the good news. The bad news is that the numbers of ordinands are widely insufficient to fill the need for priests, especially full time parish priests. Hopefully, most of the new ordinands will be around to mark their tenth anniversary of ordination, and not be barred from ministry. Keep us posted.


Leave a Comment