For the past two decades, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University has been publishing The CARA Report, a quarterly newsletter that presents what it calls “the most important and up-to-date research on American Catholics and the Catholic Church in the United States.”
The following is a distillation of some of the topics addressed in the latest CARA Report for spring 2015:
Latin American Catholics
The percentage of 425 million people in Latin America who identify themselves as Catholic has dropped to 69 percent, according to a report by the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life.
“In 1910,” said the report, “an estimated 94 percent of Latin Americans were Catholic, and only about 1 percent were Protestant. But Catholics began declining as a share of the region’s population in the 1970s.”
Latin American Catholics are reported to make up almost 40 percent of the world’s Catholic population. The Pew study found that 19 percent of Latin Americans currently identify themselves as Protestant, and 8 percent are religiously unaffiliated.
The number of seminarians who are studying at the graduate level in the United States in the 2014-15 academic year—enrolled in theologate or post-baccalaureate courses—is nearly identical to the previous year and has been consistent over the past five years.
The number enrolled in graduate priestly formation totaled 3,650. A total of 77 percent of those men were studying for dioceses and 23 percent for religious orders. More than half those students are under age 30 and another fifth are in their early 30s. One in ten is between 35 and 39 and one in ten is age 40 or older. A total of 64 percent of them are white, 15 percent are Hispanic/Latino, 10 percent are Asian/Pacific Islander, 4 percent are black/African American, and 7 percent are listed as “other.” Foreign students account for 24 percent of students at the theologate level.
New Priests Portrait
CARA offered a statistical snapshot of the men who were scheduled to be ordained as priests in 2015: The average age of men ordained this year is 34. Two thirds of them are white, 14 percent are Hispanic and 10 percent are Asian/Pacific Islander. A fourth of them were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, Poland and Vietnam. Most have been Catholic since birth, 84 percent have parents who are Catholic, and more than a third have a relative who is a priest or religious. On average, the men were about 17 years old when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood, and seven in ten of them were encouraged by a parish priest. Almost half reported they were also discouraged from choosing a priestly vocation by one or more people.