This post is authored by CARA Research Associate Michal Kramarek, Ph.D. and provides a brief preview of a larger new study about Catholic priests’ formation in the United States. The full overview of the findings is available for free at https://cara.georgetown.edu/PriestFormation2021.pdf This research publication was commissioned and funded by the Catholic Communications Campaign. The underlying data comes from the Catholic Ministry Formation Directory 2021, which is available for purchase at https://cara.georgetown.edu/publication/catholic-ministry-formation-directory/
Since the academic year 1967-1968, CARA has been collecting enrollment data for priesthood formation programs in the United States. At that time, there were 8,159 seminarians enrolled in the post-baccalaureate level of priestly formation (i.e., in pre-theology and theology seminary programs), 13,401 seminarians in college programs, and 15,823 students in high school seminary programs. By the academic year 1995-1996, all three numbers declined quickly (on average, by 9%, 7%, and 3% a year respectively). In the last quarter century, the number of seminarians in high school programs continued to fall (albeit, at a much slower rate of 3% a year), while the number of seminarians in college programs and post-baccalaureate programs remained relatively stable. Today, in the academic year 2020-2021, there are 3,110 seminarians enrolled in pre-theology and theology, 1,118 seminarians in college programs, and 336 students in high school seminary programs.
Among 3,110 seminarians enrolled in pre-theology and theology, 88% are enrolled in theologates, 5% in free-standing and college seminaries, and 7% in seminary residences. Overall, 75% are candidates for dioceses and 25% are members of religious orders. Furthermore, 79% are enrolled in theology programs while 21% are in pre-theology programs. One in five of those seminarians (20%) are foreign-born and the same proportion (20%) will be serving in non-U.S. dioceses or non-U.S.-based religious order.
Among 1,118 seminarians in college- level programs, 37% are enrolled in free-standing seminaries, another 37% in collaborative seminaries, and the remaining 26% in seminary residences.
Among 336 students in high school seminary programs, the biggest share is enrolled at Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary in New York (49%), followed by 45% at St. Lawrence Seminary, in Wisconsin, and 6% enrolled at Sacred Heart Apostolic School, in Indiana.
If you would like to see more detailed break downs, how these break downs changed over the past decades, and how they are projected to change in the next five years, you can access the full overview of the findings for at https://cara.georgetown.edu/PriestFormation2021.pdf If you are interested to see a listing of all the Catholic formation programs in the United States, in the academic year 2020-2021 (including priestly formation, permanent diaconate formation and lay ecclesial ministry formation), you can purchase the Catholic Ministry Formation Directory at https://cara.georgetown.edu/publication/catholic-ministry-formation-directory/