QUEZON CITY — For nearly a decade, the Catholic Church in the United States has had steady supply of priests from Asia, with the Philippines one of the oases in the Sahara-like career of priesthood.
But the numbers have been decreasing, a survey commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) revealed.
The report titled “The Class of 2009: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood,” found out that a quarter of ordinands –persons being ordained to priesthood– were born outside the US, with the largest numbers coming from Mexico, Vietnam, Poland and the Philippines.
“Religious order ordinands are slightly more likely than diocesan ordinands to be foreign-born,” said the report commissioned to the Washington, DC-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate of Georgetown University.
The report, however, noted that while the “percentage of ordinands who are foreign-born increased from 22 percent in 1999 to 38 percent in 2003,” this share “has declined since that point and is now at 24 percent in 2009.”
The report added that while the percentage of foreign-born ordinands from religious institutes has fluctuated somewhat since 1999, due to the relatively smaller number of religious ordinands, the diocesan percentage has remained relatively steady at approximately 20 to 30 percent of all diocesan ordinands.
Priests from religious congregations take three vows, including the vow of poverty.
This year’s ordination class claims 11 percent Asian-born men, a statement by the USCB said.
However, the percentage of Asian Catholics in the US is only three percent. But the statement didn’t cite a concrete figure.
Six percent of the class is from Vietnam and two percent from the Philippines.
The survey had a response rate of approximately 70 percent of the 465 potential ordinands reported by theologates, houses of formation, dioceses, and religious institutes. They included 239 men being ordained for dioceses and 71 for religious orders, such as the Jesuits, Dominicans and Franciscans. Another 15 ordinands did not specify whether they were being ordained for dioceses or religious orders.
Responding ordinands represent 112 dioceses/eparchies and 46 religious congregations.
Last year, the USCCB noted that a third of new priests were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Mexico, Vietnam, Poland, and the Philippines.
The percentage of foreign-born is nearly the same in 2008 as in 2007 (32 percent compared to 31 percent), but has increased from the 22 percent reported in 1999.
On average, ordinands born in another country have lived in the US for 13 years.
According to a Philippine Senate document, the country remains the second largest in the world in the number of Catholics, with 73 million.
But a Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines intuited there are less than 25,000 priests for this number.
Other findings of the CARA report point to the average age of the class of 2009 as 36.
The report, however, didn’t offer a breakdown of age and the ethnic group where the priests belong to.
Still, it said the youngest ordinand in the class is 25; the oldest, 66. Two ordinands are 65 or older, the report said without identifying the nationalities of these priests.
The report also said that half of the responding ordinands (51 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, “which is a slightly higher rate than that for all US Catholic adults.”
“The responding ordinands are highly educated. More than six in ten completed college before entering the seminary. A number of ordinands report that they were recognized for academic achievement.”