Nineteen Sixty-four is a research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University edited by Mark M. Gray. CARA is a non-profit research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church. Founded in 1964, CARA has three major dimensions to its mission: to increase the Catholic Church's self understanding; to serve the applied research needs of Church decision-makers; and to advance scholarly research on religion, particularly Catholicism. Follow CARA on Twitter at: caracatholic.

6.24.2013

Catholic Colleges "Amplify" Influences Leading to Priestly Vocations


Last week, CARA researchers were at Boston College presenting results of a new study as part of a Vocations Summit with Church leaders. Based on a survey, this study focuses on the ways in which the activities and experiences of men who attended Catholic colleges and universities were similar to, or different from, those of men who attended non-Catholic colleges and universities (44% of of recently ordained priests attended a Catholic college compared to 7% of all U.S. adult Catholics). Commissioned by Boston College and the Jesuit Conference-USA, this survey was designed to specifically assess the role and influence of Catholic colleges and universities on vocational discernment. Between April 2012 and June 2012, CARA distributed the survey to a total of 5,246 men known and identified by church leaders to be in formation or recently ordained. A total of 1,575 men (30% response rate) completed the questionnaire, making it one of the largest recent surveys of men in formation and the newly ordained. 

The study documents that a Catholic college environment provides significantly more opportunity for students to discuss their faith in an academic setting in ways that a non-Catholic college environment does not. Over half (51%) of those who attended Catholic colleges report having discussed faith, religion, and prayer “frequently” during class, compared to only 11% of those who attended non-Catholic colleges. Similarly, Catholic-college attenders are substantially more likely than their counterparts to report having discussed these topics with professors outside of class (43% to 9%, respectively), and with students outside of class (62% to 40%, respectively). While 58% of those who attended a Catholic college report that a particular college course was “especially influential” on their vocational discernment, only 27% of those who attended a non-Catholic college report likewise. 



Almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents overall state that a priest, sister, or brother professor had a “significant positive influence” on their vocational discernment. Those who attended a Catholic college are much more likely to have been exposed to priests, sisters, or brothers during college. While nine out of ten of those who attended a Catholic college report having had a priest, sister, or brother as a college professor (88%), college administrator (93%) or campus minister (90%), substantially fewer of those who attended a non-Catholic college had a priest or religious as a professor (18%), administrator (15%), or campus minister (59%).

Of those who attended a Catholic college, 91% report that Mass was available daily during college, and 90% report that they attended Mass at least once a week. Of those who attended a non-Catholic college, less than half (49%) report that Mass was available daily, and 79% state that they attended Mass at least once a week. Men at Catholic colleges are also more likely to report having engaged in a devotional practice during college, and to have engaged with greater frequency in a wider variety of devotional practices, than those who attended a non-Catholic college. The only exception to this is with respect to Bible study, where non-Catholic college attenders report slightly higher levels of engagement in this particular practice.

The study revealed that one of the most influential college experiences in terms of shaping respondents’ religious vocation is having a regular spiritual director. Of those who report having had this during college, approximately two-thirds (65 percent) say this influenced their vocational discernment “very much.” Men who attended a Catholic college are much more likely than those who attended a non-Catholic college to report having a regular spiritual direction during college (62% to 30%, respectively), and to have attended spiritual direction with greater frequency during college.

Of those who attended a Catholic college, 59% report being encouraged in their vocational discernment by a campus minister, 72% report being encouraged by a professor, and 50% report being encouraged by a college staff member. Figures for non-Catholic college attenders are substantially lower: 46% report being encouraged by a campus minister, 25% report being encouraged by a professor, and 14% by a college staff member.

When asked to identify any individuals who have either encouraged or discouraged their vocational discernment, respondents are most likely to report having been encouraged in their vocational discernment by friends (72%), parish priests (71%), parents (58%), and campus ministry staff (51%). Friends and family are also identified as being among the individuals who have discouraged these men in their vocational discernment. Compared to those who attended a non-Catholic college, those who attended a Catholic college are: over three times more likely to report being encouraged in their vocational discernment by college staff (50% to 14%); almost three times more likely to be encouraged by a college professor (72% to 25%); twice as likely to be encouraged by a religious sister or brother; and substantially more likely to be encouraged parents, siblings, friends, and campus ministers.

Photo above courtesy of stevendavy from Flickr Commons.

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