success stories

Posted May 7, 2003

Latest Pertinent Statistics on Seminaries,
Lay Formation and the Diaconate from CARA

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate

Numbers in seminaries drop:

For the first time in five years, the number of students in U.S. Catholic seminary theologates dropped in 2002-03.

The number of high school and college seminarians also declined, as did the number participating in permanent diaconate formation programs.

Numbers in lay ecclesial formation programs rise:

The nation's Catholic lay ecclesial ministry formation programs, however, registered an enrollment increase of more than 1,000, from 34,414 in the 2001-02 school year to 35,448 in the current year.

Where the numbers are specifically changing:

Among seminary figures, the theologate, or postgraduate, enrollment is the most significant indicator of future ordinations. In the fall of the 2002-03 school year there were 3,414 postgraduate students, down 170 from the year before. These figures are 300 more than the low of 3,114 hit in the 1997-98 school year, and it marked the first decline since 1997-98.

The number of collegiate seminarians, however, hit a modern low with 1,376 -- down 218 from last year's 1,594. That number is likely to go down further next year, since two college seminaries -- in the Los Angeles and Boston archdioceses -- are slated to close their doors at the end of the current school year. The combined enrollment of the two this year was 96.

The racial and ethnic background of theologate students has become more diverse since CARA first began tracking such data 10 years ago.

In 1993, 79 percent of theologate students were white, 11 percent Hispanic/Latino, 8 percent Asian and 2 percent black. This year only 66 percent were white, while Hispanics rose to 14 percent, Asians to 12 percent and blacks to 4 percent. Another 4 percent were listed as "other," including Native Americans and some not easily classified, such as multiracial and some foreign-born students.

Nearly a quarter of all theologate students were born in a foreign country.

Among the theologate students, 2,489 were preparing for diocesan priesthood and 925 were preparing for ordination in religious orders.

The latest statistics on deacons:

Four-fifths of those preparing to become permanent deacons are between 40 and 60 years old, with small percentages under 40 and over 60. Ninety-six percent were married.

The biggest boom in ministerial formation in the past two decades, however, is in formation for lay ministry. When CARA first surveyed those programs in 1985-86, it found 206 programs with an enrollment of 10,500. In 2002-03 there were 313 degree- or certificate-granting programs with a combined enrollment of 35,448.

"CARA Catholic Ministry Formation Directory 2003" costs $50, postage and handling included. It can be ordered on the Internet at http://cara.georgetown.edu/pubs/index.htm or by telephoning CARA at (202) 687-8080.