Class of 2024 Seminarians Younger, More Diverse Than Recent Years

Incoming seminarians for 2024 are younger, more diverse, and more involved in their communities, according to a new survey, signaling a changing face of the Catholic priesthood in the U.S.

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Muhammad Jawad
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Class of 2024 Seminarians Younger, More Diverse Than Recent Years

Class of 2024 Seminarians Younger, More Diverse Than Recent Years

The incoming class of seminarians set to be ordained in 2024 is younger, more involved in their communities , and more diverse compared to recent years, according to a new survey from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University. The survey, which included responses from 392 ordinands, found that half will be ordained at age 31 or younger.

Many of the 2024 ordinands were active in parish youth groups, Catholic campus ministry, Boy Scouts, and the Knights of Columbus or Knights of Peter Claver growing up. Most also served as altar servers, lectors, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion before entering the seminary. The average age when they first considered the priesthood was 16.

While 89% of respondents said they were encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life, such as a parish priest, friend, or parishioner, 45% also faced discouragement, usually from friends, family members, or classmates. The vast majority of ordinands (82%) were raised by Catholic parents and baptized as infants (92%).

In terms of education and experience, 60% of the incoming seminarians completed college or graduate degrees before entering seminary, often in fields like business, liberal arts, philosophy, and engineering. Many also had student loan debt. Racially and ethnically, the class of 2024 is 67% white, 20% Hispanic/Latino, 10% Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian, and 2% Black. About a quarter (23%) were born outside the United States.

Why this matters: The findings provide insight into the backgrounds and experiences of the next generation of Catholic priests in the U.S. The younger age and increased diversity of ordinands may shape the future of the Church and its ability to serve an increasingly diverse population.

Bishop James F. Checchio, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, said the report "gives us good reason to be proud of the men responding to God's call to serve the Church." He highlighted the importance of encouraging vocations, stating, "While we continue to pray for more vocations, we also need to actively invite men to consider the priesthood and support them throughout their discernment."

Key Takeaways

  • Incoming seminarians in 2024 are younger, more diverse, and more involved in communities.
  • Half will be ordained at 31 or younger, with average age of first priesthood consideration at 16.
  • Most were raised Catholic, with 82% having Catholic parents and 92% baptized as infants.
  • 60% completed college/graduate degrees before seminary, often in fields like business and engineering.
  • Racial/ethnic breakdown: 67% white, 20% Hispanic/Latino, 10% Asian, 2% Black; 23% born abroad.