Who's considering religious life?

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Just who is considering religious life is tracked by a number of different organizations, including the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the National Religious Vocation Conference, and VISION Vocation Network.


-- Among male never-married Catholics, 3 percent (or approximately 350,000) have very seriously considered becoming a priest or religious brother.

-- Men who have attended a Catholic secondary school are six times more likely to consider being a priest or brother.

-- Among college students involved in Catholic campus ministry: 66 percent have seriously considered becoming a priest or religious brother.

-- Among men involved in diocesan young adult ministry: 84 percent have seriously considered becoming a priest or religious brother.


-- Among female never-married Catholics 2 percent (or approximately 250,000) have very seriously considered becoming a religious sister.

-- Women who have attended a Catholic primary school are three times more likely than those who did not to consider being a religious sister.

-- Among college students involved in Catholic campus ministry: 39 percent have seriously considered becoming a religious sister.

-- Among women involved in diocesan young-adult ministry: 30 percent have seriously considered becoming a religious sister.

Women and Men

-- Among former full-time volunteers of Catholic Volunteer Network 37 percent have considered religious life or the priesthood and 6 percent have chosen a religious vocation.

-- Among men and women discerning a vocation, the average educational debt is $28,000. (A majority of religious congregations have turned an inquirer away within the last 10 years because of educational debt.)

Who's entering religious life?

Newer entrants identify their primary reasons for coming to religious life as a sense of call, a desire to deepen their prayer and spiritual life, and a desire to live and work with others who share their faith and values.


In 2018 there are over 1.1 million religious brothers, sisters, and order and diocesan priests in the world:

641,661 religious sisters and nuns

414,065 diocesan and religious order priests

50,941 religious brothers

In the United States

-- Both the spirituality and mission of the religious institute, along with the example of professed members, are most likely to attract newer members to their respective institutes, followed by the prayer life and community life.

-- In 2017, there are more than 61,000 religious sisters, brothers, and priests in the United States in 768 religious institutes.

-- Over 1,000 U.S. women and men are in formation preparing to become sisters, brothers and priests.

-- More than 200 women and men in the U.S. profess perpetual vows annually.

-- The average age a person first considers a vocation to religious life fluctuates between 17 and 20; however, half are 18 or younger when they first consider a vocation.

-- In 2017, approximately 477 entered priesthood -- 266 to diocesan priesthood (from 114 dioceses) and 96 to religious priesthood. Among religious orders, the largest number of respondents came from the Jesuits, Dominicans, and Benedictines.

-- The average age of entrants is 28 years of age and the average age at perpetual profession for men is 43 and for women, 39 years of age.

-- Newer entrants aree 67 percent Caucasian/white/European American; 17 percent Hispanic/Latino/a; 11 percent Asian/Pacific Islander/Hawaiian; 3 percent African/African American/black; 2 percent other.

-- 70 percent of newer entrants have a bachelor's degree when they enter.

Information gathered from the follow sources:


2013 CARA/National Survey of Former Full-time Volunteers of the Catholic Volunteer Networkby Caroline Saunders, Thomas Gaunt, S.J., and Eva Coll

2012 CARA/USCCB Study on the Consideration of Priesthood and Religious Life among Never-Married U.S. Catholics by Mark M. Gray and Mary L. Gautier

2009 NRVC/CARA Study on Recent Vocations

2007 Young Adult Catholics and their Future in Ministry Study by Dean R. Hoge and Marti Jewell