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CARA has completed a longitudinal study of women religious in the United States drawing on data reported by the religious institutes of women listed in the Official Catholic Directory (OCD). The contributions of women religious in the United States continue to be evident today in Catholic institutions of education and healthcare across the country, but there are, and have been, countless other contributions as well.

Over the years, these valiant women have adapted to changing circumstances and forged ahead despite challenges to their way of life and ministry. The U.S. Catholic Church is indebted to the ministerial efforts and sacrifices made by women religious in the past and present. This CARA Special Report is an effort to disentangle the story of women religious in the United States that is hidden in the numbers.

Download the report by clicking the image to the right:

CARA research shows that a majority of priests and religious indicate that their family encouraged their pursuit of a vocation but very little is known about the influence of families on vocations. In conjunction with the 2014 and 2015 Synod on the Family in Rome and the 8th World Meeting of Families, to be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in September, 2015, this major study on the role of the family in nurturing vocations is currently underway.

The study consists of three parts:

  • A survey of recently professed religious and recently ordained priests as well as those currently in formation will assess the family support and encouragement of a vocation as experienced by these men and women. These survey participants are also asked to provide contact information for a parent or other close family member who can respond to a survey.
  • A survey of family members of religious and clergy will reveal information about the common characteristics of families who have produced vocations to religious life or priesthood. Attention will be given to faith practice, level of support, parish involvement, ethnic and cultural practice, and other characteristics that may influence vocational discernment in families.
  • A national random survey of Catholic parents will assess contemporary attitudes about vocations, their support or discouragement of vocations, and whether they discuss the possibility of a vocation with their children.

Findings from the study will be made available in time for the 8th World Meeting of Families and the 2015 Synod on the Family in Rome. The findings will help to educate the Church on the important role of parents and families in the promotion of vocations at the time when the Church is placing an intentional, stronger focus on families and their faith life. As with all CARA research, the absolute confidentiality of all individual responses is guaranteed. Research findings are reported in statistical format, typically as averages or percentages. Any information that could potentially identify an individual or his/her family is concealed or removed from the report of findings. This study is a collaborative research project of the National Religious Vocation Conference and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, made possible through generous funding from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. For more information contact CARA Senior Research Associate Mary L. Gautier, Ph.D.

The total number of priests ordiained in the U.S. has been increasing slightly since 2012 (from 457 to 494 in 2013 and 508 in 2014). CARA expects that growth trend to continue in 2015. A view of the potential future beyond that can be seen in seminary enrollments by year as shown below from CARA's Ministry Formation Directory (MFD) Statistical Overview for 2015. The Church will need to retain more seminarians in theology in the Classes of 2016, 2017, and 2018 than it has in the recent past to keep this positive trend going. More on this topic...

Time to order now!

CARA's 2015 Catholic Ministry Formation Directory (MFD) will be available soon! The most comprehensive directory of Catholic ministry formation programs in the U.S. can be ordered in print or online. The MFD is an indispensable reference for seminary, diaconate, and lay ministry formation programs, vocation offices, career counselors, parishes, and many others. The 2015 Directory contains a detailed analysis of participants in Catholic ministry formation programs – seminarians, deacon candidates, and men and women preparing for lay ecclesial ministry positions. It also contains a complete listing of the more than 550 Catholic ministry formation programs sponsored by the Catholic Church in the United States, organized by type, by state, and by diocese. Each entry includes a listing of current leadership for each program, enrollment data, contact information, and a detailed program description. The Directory also contains a statistical overview of ministry formation enrollments which can be downloaded for free now.

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Meet the religious women and men who professed perpetual vows in communities of religious life in the U.S. in 2014:

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