Nearly 500 men from Catholic dioceses across the country will be ordained for the priesthood this spring. This year’s cohort is representative of the Church in the United States, which is filled with well-educated professionals, newcomers to the nation and souls touched by war.
At least seven ordinands have a military background. Others immigrated to the United States, leaving situations of poverty and strife in their countries of origin. About one-third of the class is foreign-born, coming from countries as diverse as Poland, Vietnam and the Philippines.
About six percent of the Class of 2007 are converts to Catholicism. Douglas Freer, for example, who will be ordained for the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, was an Episcopal priest for 12 years.
The men being ordained have a broad range of educational backgrounds. Many are educators. One was a professional pilot for 28 years, another worked in finance and yet another in law enforcement. Other ordinands include former physicians, lawyers, psychologists, architects, and the vice-president of an ad agency.
Ages vary, too. Among the older candidates for ordination are a 60-year-old and a 53-year-old in the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee.
Some men were in religious orders as brothers or friars. They received dispensation from their orders to be ordained diocesan priests. Others are widowers.
The number of ordinations varies from diocese to diocese as well. Some dioceses, such as Stockton, California, are ordaining their largest group in years. Spokane Diocese has seen an increase in the diocesan priesthood over the last three years. From 2004 to 2007, the number of active priests in the diocese has increased by 20 percent. The boost comes as the diocese deals with bankruptcy brought on by the clergy sexual abuse scandal.