This Year's New Priests Print
Written by Michael Fones   
Monday, 21 May 2007 09:54
USA Today has an article about the 475 men preparing for ordination to the priesthood in the next few weeks in the U.S. Interestingly, 9% have been touched by the Iraq war or served in the military before responding to a call to serve the Church, according to a survey by the USCCB. Of those who served in the military, one-third were in the Air Force.

"The 2007 class of priests includes a widower whose son was serving in Iraq when he became a deacon last year, and a 16-year Air Force veteran who flew B-52 bombers and saw combat in the Persian Gulf War. It also includes a graduate of the US Naval Academy who served on nuclear submarines before becoming a businessman and then joining a religious order."

"As in past years, most new priests worked at other vocations before deciding to take their vows. One in 10 were teachers. Others were skilled laborers, farmers, fishermen, salesmen and computer technicians. The group includes a professional pilot who once owned a hot-air balloon company, a retired bank president, an ad agency executive and a double bass player. Other class notes:

- The average age is 35, two years younger than in 2006. That's the first decline in age since 1998, when data were first collected. The youngest new priest is 25; the oldes is 68.

- One in three were born outside the USA, up from 24% in 1998. The largest number come from Vietnam, Mexico and Poland.

- There are more Asian and fewer Hispanics than the overall U.S. adult Catholic population. Asians make up 3% of American Catholics but 11% of new priests. Hispanics constitute 36% of Catholics but 11% of new priests."

The number of priestly ordinations has held stable at around 450 for the past five years, but during each of those years approximately 1300 priests have died or retired.

The Western Dominican Province is ordaining four men this June. All of them are younger than the average age for this country, and all of them entered immediately or shortly after finishing college. The eight-year Dominican formation they've gone through means they are all around thirty years old. You can read about them on our Province website at www.opwest.org. Two of them are interested in pursuing more education, one is interested in mission work, and one will be serving at the University of Arizona Catholic Campus Ministry, where I live when I'm not on the road.

In your experience, do you believe it makes a difference if a priest has had some kind of secular career prior to studying for priesthood? If so, in what ways do you believe they minister differently?