There have been a number of reports of a surge in vocations for priests and other religious. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) reported that an estimated 595 priestly ordinations in the U.S. in 2015. That’s a 25% increase over 2014. That’s a good growth no matter how you slice it.
Naturally, when people hear about the increase they tend to wonder what’s up. Dominican brother Dominic Bouck, O.P. has certainly heard the questions. In a recent blog post he says:
One thing that I’ve heard from several people when I mention the surge in Dominican vocations (and the surge of many dioceses and orders male and female) is “Oh, it must be the recession.”
That’s a natural reaction — particularly for us in America who tend to evaluate a person’s success in terms of professional or material accomplishments. It also has a whiff of “well, he can’t make it in the real world so he’s going to retreat into religious life.” Except, as Dominic explains, those perceptions are completely wrong.
Truly, I have not met one religious who set aside marital joys, self-determination, and wealth because he or she couldn’t find a job.The man who sets aside his personal dreams to more perfectly subject himself to God is not primarily saying “no” to the world, but saying “yes” to a renewed life with God … there are over fifty of us studying for the priesthood or preparing to live life as a consecrated brother, about to be joined by fifteen more on July 25.
Among those roughly 75 men are lawyers, a medical doctor, a congressional staffer, professional musicians, a radio host, several PhDs and professors, a particle physicist from Stanford, a former Google employee, a dean of admissions at a medical school, Ivy Leaguers, Golden Domers, and more who were successful in the world, but sought a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church, and desired to serve his people.
A similar phenomenon is taking place among religious sisters. Another CARA report (cited as part of the Global Sisters Report) points out that the age of women professing final vows is creeping upward.
In 2010, 47 percent of women professing final vows were aged 40 to 59. Another 26 percent were between 30 and 39. The median age for the class was 44.
Those numbers have steadily changed in the years since, reflecting an increase among younger women: By the class of 2014, only 27 percent of women taking final vows were aged 40 to 59 and those younger than 30 had increased from 18 percent to 25 percent. The median age of the class had dropped to 35.
But 75 percent of the class was still 30 or older.
The report tells the story of Marie Racine.
Marie Racine was well established, a software engineer for 17 years, when something happened.
“We had a meeting, and all of the sudden when they introduced the new projects, I just wasn’t interested anymore,” Racine said. “It just no longer mattered to me.”
That awareness propelled Racine onto a new path — and into an emerging trend about women committing to religious life: Racine entered a Benedictine monastery the day before her 40th birthday and made her final vows seven years later, in 2007.
All of this is consistent with what I’ve seen among the Paulists. Among the students and priests in the Paulist Community we’ve met Financial Advisors, Mechanical Engineers, Park Rangers, and an actor. Some of them entered formation after they had established themselves in “respectable” careers and (to a worldly point of view) were on a successful path. Yet, for all of them, God’s call drew them into a new venture which allowed them to use their gifts in service of the Faith.
When you’re looking at your son or daughter who is in discernment and you’re wondering what’s going on with them — set aside your notions of success and consider the work that God may be doing in their life.
— Dad of Evan