Survey says: Invitation, prayer key to discerning vocation to priesthood

This month, on June 15, Bishop Donald Kettler will ordain three men to the priesthood at the Cathedral of St. Mary: Deacons Richard Aubol, Mark Botzet and Gregory Sauer. The Central Minnesota Catholic will publish stories about these men and photos from the ordination Mass in the July issue of the magazine. 

By Joe Towalski

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University in Washington recently published the results of a national survey it conducted regarding the 2019 ordination class. The survey offers insights about the ordinands’ backgrounds, prayer practices, discernment influences and pre-seminary careers. CARA contacted 481 men scheduled to be ordained priests this year; 379 responded. Among the findings: 


• The average age of this year’s ordinands is 33; on average, they first considered priesthood when they were 16. 

• Three in four were born in the United States. Of the 25% who were born outside the United States, the most common countries of origin were Mexico (5%), Nigeria (3%) and Columbia and Vietnam, each at 2%. 

Bishop Donald Kettler joins hands with Rick Aubol during the Promise of Obedience in his 2018 ordination to the transitional diaconate. (Paul Middlestaedt / For the Central Minnesota Catholic)

• Slightly more than two-thirds (68%) worked full time before entering the seminary. Education was the most common work field (11%), but they bringa wide variety of experiences to their ministries. Other careers included television producer, registered nurse and guitar player in a nationally touring punk rock band. 

• Eucharistic adoration (75%) and the rosary (73%) were the most popular and influential prayer practices the men regularly engaged in before entering the seminary. More than half (53%) participated in a parish youth group. 

• More than three-fourths (78%) were altar servers before entering the seminary; 53% served as lectors, and 44% were extraordinary ministers of holy Communion. 

• 92% reported being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life; on average, four individuals encouraged their vocation. More than two-thirds of ordinands (69%) cited a parish priest as a key person in their discernment process; other encouragers were friends (43%), fellow parishioners (39%), mothers (38%) and fathers (33%). 

In addition to the upcoming priesthood ordinations, Bishop Kettler will ordain three men on June 8 to the transitional diaconate: Patrick Hoeft, Brady Keller and Thomas Skaja; and two men to the permanent diaconate: Phillip Henneman and Jeffrey Winkelman. 

Please pray for these men and encourage all those who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood, diaconate or religious life. And watch for articles on all the newly ordained in the July issue! 

Author: Joe Towalski

Joe Towalski is the editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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