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This summer the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) will observe its 50th Anniversary. Although usually considered a product of the Church's increasing openness to science and research resulting from the Second Vatican Council, CARA's origins go back even farther. As early as 1951 the superiors of U.S. missionary institutes called for a national research center to help reshape the missioner's role in the emerging churches of the developing world. But the immediate impetus for such an organization was an article in 1961 by Richard Cardinal Cushing, on "The Modern Challenge of the Missions," in the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston. Subsequently the major superiors of mission-sending orders voted about $5,000 to evaluate the need for "A Catholic Center for Coordinated Research and Cooperation." A study group delivered a favorable report in late 1963. CARA was officially incorporated in the District of Columbia on August 5, 1964.

Fr. James Darby, SM and Sr. Marion Duffy, RSCJ presenting research
at the Conference of Major Superiors of Women, Sept. 1968.

Its founding board of directors included Archbishop (later Cardinal) John P. Cody and Bishop (later Archbishop) Fulton J. Sheen of the Propagation of the Faith. CARA's founding documents established principles that have guided the organization for 50 years. In summary form, these are to gather new information, to store and retrieve such, and to disseminate useful data for practical use by Church decision makers. Two additional principles soon became CARA hallmarks: absolute independence and objectivity. As one commentator put it, CARA's objective is "to search dispassionately for truth."

Sponsorship Opportunities and Donations

The latest statistics on current enrollments in U.S. Catholic ministry formation programs are now available. CARA collects enrollment data on every Catholic ministry formation program that prepares men and women for ministry in the U.S. Church as priests, deacons, and lay ecclesial ministers. This statistical overview of enrollment data is published annually and is now available free of charge in PDF format.


New Report: Hispanic Ministry in Catholic Parishes, a collaborative research effort between Boston College and CARA.

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New Release: CARA's Hispanic Catholic Fact Sheet

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The Impact of a Volunteer Service Year

The research on volunteer alumni suggests that volunteering for a year of service in a faith-based volunteer service organization may be an important step in a young adult’s discernment process. This is evidenced by the majority of the men volunteer alumni and one-third of the women volunteer alumni who have considered a religious vocation. Current and former volunteers may well be the most likely and identifiable group of potential vocations to priesthood and religious life.

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New Book Released by CARA researchers. Bridging the Gap: The Opportunities and Challenges of International Priests Ministering in the United States (OSV, 2014).

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Church Statistics

Frequently Requested Church Statistics

An overview of the Catholic Church in the United States using data from multiple sources, including recent CARA studies.

Formation Directory

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