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​Strong prayer life influences choice to become Nun, Brother, suggests CARA study

February 02, 2017 | posted by United States Confeence of Catholic Bishops

Topics: Vocations, Breaking News

Strong prayer life influences choice to become Nun, Brother, suggests CARA study

Nearly all of the religious men and women who professed perpetual vows in 2016 had a strong prayer life prior to entering their religious institute, according to a survey on men and women religious conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University. The survey results were released February 2, to coincide with the annual celebration of World Day for Consecrated Life. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations (CCLV) commissioned the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) to conduct the annual survey of the religious profession class of 2016.

The large percentage of newly professed religious who responded to the survey is the result of the generous cooperation of religious institutes across the United States. “The participation in the survey by religious communities is remarkable,” said Cardinal Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R., of Newark, chair of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations. “The Church is grateful for those women and men who have given their lives to Jesus Christ through the profession of final vows. Their participation in this survey and the information gained from it, helps the Church’s work to encourage all to listen for God’s call.”

The survey polled women and men religious who professed perpetual vows in 2016 in a religious congregation, province, or monastery based in the U.S. CARA received a response from 610 of 759 major superiors, for an overall response rate of 80 percent among religious institutes.

Of these 216 identified women and men religious, a total of 81 sisters and nuns and 96 brothers and priests responded to the survey. These 96 men may include some brothers who intend to pursue studies leading to priestly ordination. This represents a response rate of 82 percent of the 216 potential members of the Profession Class of 2016 that were reported to CARA by major superiors.

Some of the major findings of the report are:

  • Nearly nine in ten or 86 percent of responding religious regularly participated in some type of private prayer activity before they entered their religious institute. About two-thirds participated in Eucharistic Adoration, prayed the rosary, or attended retreats before entering. Nearly six in ten participated in spiritual direction before entering.
  • Most religious did not report that educational debt delayed their application for entrance to their institute. Among the 4 percent who did report having educational debt, however, they averaged about 4 years of delay while they paid down an average of $29,100 in educational debt.
  • The average age of responding religious is 39. Half of the responding religious are age 36 or younger. The youngest is 26 and the oldest is 86.
  • Two-thirds of responding religious (66 percent) identify as white, more than one in six (16 percent) identifies as Asian, and more than one in ten (11 percent) identifies as Hispanic.
  • Most responding religious (67 percent) were born in the U.S. Of those born outside the United States, the most common country of origin is Vietnam.
  • Among those identifying as Hispanic/Latino six in ten (58 percent) are U.S. born. Those identifying as Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian (96 percent) are predominantly foreign born. Nearly all identifying as Caucasian/white (91 percent) are U.S. born.
  • Almost half of responding religious (46 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is about the same as that for all Catholic adults in the United States (39 percent). These respondents are more likely than other U.S. Catholics to have attended a Catholic high school (38 percent of respondents, compared to 19 percent of U.S. adult Catholics) and much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (37 percent of responding religious, compared to just 10 percent of U.S. adult Catholics). Responding women religious are less likely than brothers to have attended a Catholic college (31 percent for women compared to 42 percent for men).
  • On average, responding religious report that they were 19 years old when they first considered a vocation to religious life, but half were 18 or younger when they first did so.
  • One-half say that a parish priest (53 percent) encouraged their vocation.
  • Four in ten report being encouraged to consider a vocation by a religious sister or brother. Women religious were more likely than men religious to do so.
  • Over four in ten report that they were encouraged to consider a vocation by their friends.

The survey and more information on the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations can be found at