VOCATIONS TO RELIGIOUS LIFE FACT SHEET
Prepared by the NRVC, February 2013
Survey estimates suggest that as many as 350,000 never married men and 250,000
never married women have seriously considered becoming a priest, sister, or brother.
Those of the millennial generation (born after 1982) are even more likely than the
generation before them to consider a vocation. Surveys also suggest that those entering
religious life today are a little younger than those who were entering ten years ago.
People who attend a Catholic school, know a priest, sister, or brother, or who have
been invited by a priest, sister, or brother to enter the priesthood or religious life are
more likely to consider seriously a religious vocation.
Some religious institutes continue to attract and few are experiencing significant
growth. About 20 percent of religious institutes have more than five members in
Those coming to religious life today tend to be optimistic in their outlook, toler
ant of differences among people, and positive in their attitudes toward authority. They
believe religious life will persevere.
In 2009 there were over 2,600 men and women in religious formation in the
United States. There are more men preparing to be religious priests and brothers
(more than half) than there are women preparing to be sisters (less than half). The
retention rate is 50% (it is higher for women than men).
The “face” of religious life is changing in the U.S. Compared to finally professed
members who are 94% white Caucasian, newer entrants are more likely to be non-
Caucasian: 21% are Hispanic/Latino/a; 14% are Asian or Pacific Islander and 6% are
African, Black, or African American.
Newer entrants are well educated. About 70% have at least a bachelor’s degree
upon entrance. However, one third of applicants have at least $20,000 in educational
debt when they enter, an increasing financial burden for the communities that receive
Religious institutes are more likely to attract newer members if they have a strong
Catholic identity, if they are hopeful about their future, if their members live together
in community, and if they have a structured prayer life.
Although newer members desire ministry (70% were already involved in full or
part-time ministry prior to entrance), their primary reasons for coming to religious life
are a sense of call, a desire to deepen their prayer and spiritual life, and a desire to live
with others who share their faith and values.
Approximately 160 women and men professed perpetual vows in religious life in2012. About 110 of these newly professed were sisters and nuns