Numbers, education up among new entrants

Numbers, education up among new entrants

Study of newly professed class of 2016

At 216, the number of people in the U.S. taking perpetual vows last year was the highest since 2010, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. At the same time, while many trends among those taking perpetual vows have held steady, two areas have shown slight movement over time: increased education levels and decreased personal prayer at the time of entrance.
The number of people identified by CARA as ready to take final vows has gone up and down since 2010, primarily inching upward. The number of religious institutes that have seen one or more members take final vows has also gone up and down over the past seven years.
In keeping with the large number of final professed in 2016, the number of religious institutes that have celebrated perpetual vows is also at a seven-year high: with 126 of the roughly 800 institutes in the country seeing one or more members take final vows this past year.
 A trend that has held steady since 2010 is that the large majority of institutes (80 to 87 percent) have not experienced a final profession. The exact proportion of institutes with no final vows has fluctuated since 2010, but the 80 percent in 2016 is the lowest since CARA began tracking the numbers. Put another way, in 2016, 20 percent of communities reported a final profession, the largest percentage since 2010.
As more Americans than ever before go to college and earn higher degrees, so too have the profession classes increased in education levels. In 2011, 57 percent entered their religious institute with at least a bachelor’s degree or more. In 2016, 74 percent of the newly professed had entered religious life with at least a bachelor’s. That represents an increase in undergraduate degrees of 17 percent over five years.
The practice of private prayer among new entrants has slightly decreased, a movement perhaps connected to larger social trends in the United States of decreased spiritual practices. In 2011, 95 percent of the profession class participated in some type of private prayer activity before they entered their religious institute. In 2016, 86 percent reported regularly participating in private prayer. That is a decrease of 9 percent. During the intervening years, the rate of private prayer was incrementally moving downward.

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