New study to examine low rate of Latino vocations in U.S.

Dr. Mary L. Gautier and Fr. Shawn McKnight
Dr. Mary L. Gautier and Fr. Shawn McKnight


The U.S. bishops commissioned a study of Catholic youth in America to determine traits that may be causing Hispanics to be underrepresented in priestly and religious vocations.

Researcher Dr. Mary Gautier said the study will help show “if there are impediments to consideration of a vocation among Latinos, such as language or cultural roadblocks.”

“This will be helpful for bishops and vocation directors as they work on vocations-related materials and approaches,” she told CNA on Jan. 3.

Gautier is a senior research associate at Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, which has been commissioned by the U.S. bishops' conference's office of vocations to conduct a nation-wide survey of never-married Catholics, ages 14 and above.

The survey – which will ask the teens and young adults about their views on vocations – is funded largely by a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation that was recently awarded to the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

Two recent reports conducted by the Secretariat found fewer religious vocations than expected among the Hispanic Catholic population in the United States.

According to the Secretariat’s executive director, Fr. Shawn McKnight, Latinos account for 34 percent of the overall adult Catholic population, but only 15 percent of the 2011 ordination class and 10 percent of the 2010 religious profession class, both of which were studied in the reports.

“There is not enough objective data to explain the reasons for their underrepresentation,” Fr. McKnight said.

The Secretariat hopes that the new study will help determine cultural elements that may pose a challenge to a “culture of vocations” among the Latino population. Doing so may assist dioceses and religious communities in their efforts to promote vocations.

Fr. Allan Deck, former head of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church, explained that successful ministry in the Hispanic community requires leadership from those within the community.

He called the new study “the single most important effort” to identify effective means of providing the necessary priestly leadership for the Hispanic community.

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