Editor's Note: Thank you to VocationMatch.com for sharing the results of this recent survey, which provides many insights into the current state of Catholic religious vocations. Lisa
Fourth Annual Survey on Trends in Catholic Religious Vocations
Young people continue exploring Catholic vocations despite church scandals
Vocation Directors see increased inquiries fourth year in a row
Chicago, Sept. 30, 2010—Catholics considering a vocation as a sister, brother, or priest and Catholic vocation directors report little impact on vocations from the new revelations in the church sexual-abuse scandal or the Vatican investigations of women’s religious communities, according to a recent survey sponsored by VISION Vocation Guide.
Recent events with a reported positive impact on vocation recruitment, among both men and women, include the Year for Priests, the Pope’s call for atonement for the church’s failings, and the canonization of a particular saint. The majority of vocation directors (61 percent) have seen an increase in inquiries for the fourth straight year.
"The fact that church events have little impact on a person’s exploration of a religious life says a lot about the depth and seriousness of the call," says Patrice Tuohy, executive editor of VISION Vocation Guide and VocationMatch.com.
The survey, conducted Aug. 30-Sept. 23, 2010, received responses from 431 vocation inquirers and 175 Catholic vocation directors. The vocation inquirers come from a pool of those who have completed profiles in VISION’s online Vocation Match or Community Search services, and the majority are under 40 and very serious about choosing religious life—18 percent plan on entering a religious community in the next year.
Other notable trends among those inquiring about religious life
- Desire to live faith-filled lives: Seventy-four percent of responding seekers rank the opportunity to live a life of faithfulness to the church and its teachings as the most essential reason they are attracted to religious life and a particular religious community. Other factors that draw them to a particular congregation are the community’s prayer life, mission, and communal living. Vocation directors report that justice and peace outreach is also a significant draw among the inquirers with whom they’ve worked. Devotional prayer is of particular interest to those under 40.
- Clothes of distinction: Twenty-five percent of men and 25 percent of male and female respondents over 40 find wearing a religious habit essential; among women and respondents under 40 the percentage increases to nearly 37 percent.
- Please introduce yourself: Personal contact with someone in religious life is reported by respondents of all ages to be the most essential resource for gathering information about vocations (53 percent) with retreats and teachers ranked very important as well.
- Prayer is most essential and most challenging: Nearly 84 percent of respondents ranked prayer as the most essential element in making a decision about religious life. The majority also listed as essential spiritual direction, greater knowledge of what would be a good fit, and opportunities to experience community life. Seekers found living with others not their age the least challenging aspect of religious life and the discipline of prayer the most.
- Emails and phone calls welcome: Despite a high usage of Facebook and text messages among seekers, all, including the youngest respondents, prefer an email or a telephone call from vocation directors.
Unexpected: Religious can be young—and fun!
Echoing a common sentiment among respondents about the sisters, brothers, and priests they’ve met, one young woman said: "It surprises me how much fun that they have." Another man observed: "I thought that there were less people looking into religious life, but now I have met a lot of people finding their place within the church and many of these people are young."
Common fears among vocation seekers are missing family members, choosing the wrong community, or basic unknowns: "Right now I am only 19 so I have many anxieties about life in general when it comes to my plans for the future." With nearly 32 percent of respondents over 50, another listed fear was not being accepted into religious life because of age.
Vocation directors expressed concern about the older age of some inquirers and the lack of basic knowledge of the faith among many inquirers.
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Statistics for the Vision VocationMatch.com Survey on Trends in Religious Vocations
were compiled from the following sources:
Vision Vocation Match Discerners Online Survey, Aug. 30-Sept. 23, 2010
Total unique respondents: 431 out of 3,181 polled
Vision Vocation Match Vocation Directors Online Survey, Aug. 30-Sept. 23, 2010
Total unique respondents: 175 out of 427 polled
For filtered responses, go to: http://www.vocation-network.org/articles/show/236
2010 Reader Profile Statistics: 6,550
Vision Vocation Guide, in print and online at www.Vocation-Network.org, is published by TrueQuest Communications, LLC, www.truequest.biz, on behalf of the National Religious Vocation Conference, www.nrvc.net. With its unique multimedia and interactive features, including www.VocationMatch.com, VISION is the most comprehensive resource available for those pursuing a religious vocation in the Catholic Church or interested in learning more about religious orders, religious life, or vocation-related opportunities.
About the Author
Lisa M. Hendey is the founder of CatholicMom.com, a bestselling author and an international speaker. A frequent radio and television guest, Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and communications. Visit Lisa at LisaHendey.com or on social media @LisaHendey for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish, school or organization. Visit Lisa's author page on Amazon.com.