Nineteen Sixty-four is a research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University edited by Mark M. Gray. CARA is a non-profit research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church. Founded in 1964, CARA has three major dimensions to its mission: to increase the Catholic Church's self understanding; to serve the applied research needs of Church decision-makers; and to advance scholarly research on religion, particularly Catholicism. Follow CARA on Twitter at: caracatholic.

6.02.2017

Catholicism: The Next Generation?


This post is co-authored by Hannah Hagan, our 2017 summer research intern. She comes to CARA from Vanderbilt University and is a math major (Class of 2019).

When I came to CARA in 2002, the research center was already studying the youngest Catholic generation, the Millennials (born 1982-2004). The oldest in this cohort were just 20 years old at the time. Now they are 36. It’s 2017… time to start thinking about the next generation of Catholics who are younger than the Millennials.

CARA typically gives the secular generation a Catholic name representative of things happening in the Church as the cohort comes of age. We do so because generational differences are often among the largest and most significant sub-group findings from our national surveys. We’ve typically included the following in our reports to describe generations:

For purpose of analysis, CARA categorizes Catholic survey respondents into four generations based on life experiences especially relevant to Catholics:    
  • The “Pre-Vatican II Generation,” was born in 1942 or earlier. Its members came of age before the Second Vatican Council. 
  • The “Vatican II Generation,” are the “baby boomers” who were born between 1943 and 1960, a time of great demographic and economic growth. They came of age during the time of the Second Vatican Council and their formative years likely spanned that time of profound changes in the Church. 
  • The “Post-Vatican II Generation,” sometimes called “Generation X” or “baby busters” by demographers, has no lived experience of the pre-Vatican II Church.
  • The “Millennial Generation,” born in 1982 or later (up to 1994 among adults), have come of age primarily under the papacies of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. Some still live with their parents and their religious practice can closely follow that of their families of origin.

CARA has already conducted a few studies of Catholic youth and teens that have collected data on the youngest, yet unnamed, generation. They will begin to enter adulthood in 2023 and appear in our national polls at that time. Of course, they are already an important cohort in our research as they are part of the Catholic school children of today and we see them in our sacramental practice data for baptisms (13.7 million infant baptisms already from 2005-2015) and First Communions. The oldest of this generation are age 12 today and some will live to see the Church enter the 22nd century.

So what should we call Catholics of this generation? In the secular research world they have been referred to as… Homelanders, Generation Z, Boomlets, Digital Natives, and iGen. The simplest choice is just to follow Gen X with Gen Y and go with Gen Z (…and worry about what letter comes next with the generation that follows). Naming generations alphabetically seems to be an odd choice (...bit lazy as well) and limits the relevance of the name to any substantive aspect of the generation.

Should the name embrace the digital revolution? Of course this generation will have no lived experiences without iPhones, tablets, social media/networks, Fitbits, etc. They will never learn cursive handwriting and struggle to develop a signature. “And also with your spirit” will always just roll off their tongues in a natural way.

Should the name be related to international events? This is the generation with no lived experience or memory of 9/11 and the immediate aftermath. Yet, their whole life has existed in the new realities of global terrorism and reactions to this. I’m not a big fan of “recycling” the Boomers and calling them the Boomlets because their early birth years exceed the numbers of the Baby Boom. There are no similarities here as the un-named generation was and will continue to be born during record low fertility rates. 

CARA has discussed whether “Generation Francis” would be an appropriate name. The oldest members of the cohort were eight years old when his papacy began. Pope Francis is 80 now. The unnamed generation is likely to include births as late as 2025. Pope Francis would be 89 at that point and those born in that year wouldn’t likely have personal memories of the pontiff.

Is Generation Francis a bit presumptuous? Maybe not. Name the last (or next) pope that is going to be Time’s Person of the Year, appear on the cover of Rolling Stone, and be named by Fortune as one of the world’s greatest leaders? Or how about name the last pope from the Americas? The last Jesuit pope? He’s created more than 60 cardinals and this will likely have a lasting impact for some time beyond his papacy.

Perhaps the only other defining religious narrative for this generation, so far, is that they will likely come of age in an era of growing secularization. Yet, pinning this on them as a Catholic generation would seem odd as this would include only those who self-identify as Catholic. It is the case that we see a decline in sacramental practice and a slow shift from weekly to monthly Mass attendance norms among younger adult Catholics. This unnamed generation may be much less attached to a parish and its community life than members of the other existing U.S. Catholic generations.

This disconnect, is in part, a reflection of the growing digital nature of their lives. They won’t recall a time when it wasn’t possible to order groceries from home, watch movies on demand (on their phones…), shop for clothes online, or keep in touch with friends and family on an hourly basis on their social networks. They may be the first generation to think of the Bible as an app rather than a thick book. Yet, Catholicism takes place in sacred (real) spaces—in the brick and mortar of parishes. You can’t email your confession or have Communion delivered by a drone. In this regard the “digital” names for this generation in the secular world may not fit in the Catholic world.

What do you think? We need your help. Researchers will be writing about this generation in CARA reports in 2100 so you could leave a lasting impression. Join us on Twitter (@caracatholic) to let us know your ideas.

Photo courtesy of Balazs Koren

3.09.2017

Who is Entering Religious Life?


Note: This blog is from CARA Senior Research Associate Mary L. Gautier, Ph.D. and Sr. Bibiana M. Ngundo, L.S.O.S.F., Ph.D. Sr. Bibiana is a visiting scholar to CARA from Kenya. Her work is supported by a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

For many years, CARA has surveyed men and women religious who are professing perpetual vows in religious institutes in our “Profession Class” series. Last year, we also began surveying postulants and novices who formally entered a religious congregation, province, or monastery based in the United States. We have just completed our second annual study of this kind in our “Entrance Class” series (reports can be downloaded below).
   
This year, we found that about a third of responding religious institutes (32 percent) had at least one postulant or novice entering religious life in 2016. The average age of respondents of the Entrance Class of 2016 is 28.  Half of the respondents are age 26 or younger.  Nearly six in ten are women and just over four in ten are men.  Among the men, four in five expect to become priests and one in five plans to become a perpetually professed brother.


Most new entrants were born in the United States.  Of those born outside the United States, the most commonly mentioned regions are Asia and Latin America, with Vietnam and Mexico emerging as the most frequently mentioned countries of birth. Seven in ten responding entrants identify as non-Hispanic white, just over one in ten identifies as Asian, one in ten identifies as Hispanic or Latino(a), and one in 20 identifies as either African/African American/black or as “other.”

Nine in ten new entrants have been Catholic since birth and eight in ten come from families in which both parents are Catholic. Almost all respondents of the entrance class of 2016 have at least one sibling and respondents are typically one of the middle children in their family. 

Altogether, respondents report 34 countries of birth. Members of the Entrance Class of 2016 are slightly more likely than other U.S. Catholics to have attended a Catholic elementary school. In a 2016 national poll conducted by CARA, 39 percent of U.S. adult Catholics report having attended a Catholic elementary school, compared to 47 percent among these respondents. Nearly four in ten entrants in 2016 have attended a Catholic high school compared to two in ten other U.S adult Catholics. In addition, entrants are more likely than other U.S Catholics to have attended a Catholic college/university. 

The responding members of the Entrance Class of 2016 were highly educated before entering.  Half reported having earned a bachelor’s degree and about two in ten earned a graduate degree before entering their religious institute. Men are more likely than women to have attended a Catholic college before entering their religious institute while women are more likely than men to have been home schooled.

Many respondents were active in parish life as well as other religious programs or activities before entering their religious institute. Nearly all respondents participated in at least one of these programs or activities before entering religious life. Slightly less than eight in ten respondents participated in retreats. Half participated in a parish youth group, Life Teen, or campus ministry during their high school years. Nearly four in ten participated in a parish young adult group. Nearly two in three participated in a liturgical ministry in a parish, such as being a lector. Half reported participating in faith formation, catechetical ministry, or in RCIA and slightly less than half participated in music ministry, cantoring, or in the choir. Two in three participated in various types of voluntary work in a parish or other setting. One in ten participated in a volunteer program with a religious institute. Slightly more than half participated in campus ministry during college. About one-third participated in a Right to Life March in Washington. One in six participated in World Youth Day.

On average, respondents were 18 years old when they first considered a vocation to religious life. Entrants to religious life were asked how much encouragement they received from various people when they first considered entering a religious institute.  More than nine in ten mentioned a spiritual director, members of the institute, other men and women religious, and/or a vocational director/team as at least “somewhat” encouraging to them when they first considered entering a religious institute.

Two in three (66 percent) report that they got to know a priest or a religious brother or sister who was not a family member while they were growing up. Nearly another four in ten have a relative who is a priest or a religious brother or sister/nun.


Between three-fourths and nine-tenths of respondents entering religious congregations report being encouraged at least “somewhat” by these sources outside of their families: people in the parish, friends outside the institute, campus ministers, and people in their school or workplace. Between six and seven in ten report being at least “somewhat” encouraged by their parents, siblings, and other family members.

Men are more likely than women to have ever had another family member speak to them about a vocation to priesthood or religious life (37 percent for men as compared to 21 percent for women), and to say that starting a discussion with their family about their vocation was easy for them (57 percent for women as compared to 45 percent for men).


Nearly all respondents were “somewhat” or “very much” attracted to religious life by a desire for prayer and spiritual growth and by a sense of call to religious life.  Three in four or more were “very” attracted by these. About nine in ten were at least “somewhat” attracted to religious life by a desire to be of service and a desire to be part of a community.  Between about six and seven in ten say each of these attracted them “very much.” About eight in ten were at least “somewhat” attracted to religious life by a desire to be more committed to the Church.  Slightly more than half say this attracted them “very much.”

Men and women entering religious life were asked to indicate how they first became acquainted with their religious institute. About three in ten respondents report that they first became acquainted with their institute in an institute where members served, through their own internet search, and through the recommendation of a friend or advisor. Between one and two in ten respondents indicate that they became acquainted with their institute through the reputation or history of the institute, through a relative or a friend in the institute, through working with a member of the institute and through the web or social media promotional materials. Between one in 20 and one in ten respondents report that that they first became acquainted with their religious institute through an event sponsored by the institute, through print promotional materials, through a vocation match or placement service, through a vocational fair, as through a media story about the institute.


Entrants were asked how much influence various aspects of their religious institute had on their decision to enter that institute. About nine in ten respondents report community life in the institute, the lifestyles of members and the prayer styles in the institute influenced their decision to enter their religious institute at least “somewhat.”  Between half and just over six in ten say these elements influenced them “very much.”

The full report is available for download, free of charge, here: The Entrance Class of 2016. The previous year's study or the Entrance Class of 2015 is also available for download.

About the Survey
To obtain the names and contact information for entrants, CARA contacted the major superiors of all religious institutes that belong to either the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) or the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), the two leadership conferences of apostolic women religious in the United States. CARA also contacted the major superiors of all religious institutes who belong to the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM).  Finally, CARA contacted the major superiors of 138 contemplative communities of women in the United States that were identified by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.  Each major superior was asked to provide contact information for every person who entered the institute (for the first time, as a postulant or novice) in the United States since January 1, 2016. CARA then mailed a survey to each new entrant and asked them to return their completed survey to CARA.

After repeated follow-ups, CARA received a response from 610 of 759 major superiors, for an overall response rate of 80 percent among religious institutes.  In all, 93 percent of LCWR superiors, 84 percent of CMSWR superiors, 76 percent of CMSM superiors, and 59 percent of superiors of contemplative communities provided contact information for 502 novices or postulants that entered religious life for the first time in the United States in 2016.  The Entrance Class of 2016 consists of 272 men (reported by CMSM superiors), 144 women reported by CMSWR, 66 women reported by LCWR, and 20 new entrants into contemplative communities of women. Of these 502 identified women and men, a total of 278 responded to the survey by February 2, 2017.  This represents a response rate of 55 percent among the new entrants to religious life that were reported to CARA by major superiors.

Photos show recent entrants to the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother and the Capuchin Franciscans, Province of St, Mary.

3.06.2017

International Sisters in the United States


Researchers at Trinity Washington University and CARA have released a new study of international Catholic sisters in the United States. Based on a ground-breaking study of more than 4,000 women religious from at least 83 countries spread over six continents, the research provides an in-depth portrait and analysis of the “international sisters” who are currently in the United States for formation, studies, or ministry. Unique in the scope of the research and the timeliness of its findings, the study was accomplished through the generous support of the GHR Foundation.

Researchers Mary Johnson, SNDdeN, Mary L. Gautier, Patricia Wittberg, SC, and Thu T. Do, LHC surveyed over 4,000 women religious who were born outside the United States and conducted focus groups and interviews with another 75 international sisters.  The study was designed to learn about their backgrounds, pathways to and reasons for coming to the United States, their contribution to Church and society, and their challenges in coming to a new country and in their lives as women religious. Some of the major findings from the research include:
  • Responding international sisters come from at least 83 countries across six continents. Asia is the largest sending continent, followed by Europe, North America (Canada and Mexico, for purposes of this study), Africa, Central/South America, and Oceania.
  • The average age of international sisters at their time of arrival was 30, and four in ten have been in the United States for 15 years or less. One in five, in fact, have been here no more than five years.
  • Six in ten entered religious life outside the United States and then were sent here for ministry, studies, or formation. Three in ten came to the United States before entering religious life.
  • Fifty-seven percent of respondents were sent to the United States by their superiors for ministry, study, or formation. Fifteen percent came because a priest or bishop from the United States requested sisters from their institute for ministry.
  • These women are very highly educated, with more than half holding a graduate or professional degree and another fifth with an undergraduate degree from a college or university.
  • Two-thirds of international sisters are involved in ministries such as education or healthcare. Fourteen percent are in studies. Thirteen percent serve their institutes in leadership, vocation, and formation work. Contemplatives comprise another 5 percent of international sisters.
  • Housing is a particular challenge for women religious because community life is a vital aspect of religious life. More than four in five international sisters live with other sisters of their own institute, while 8 percent live with sisters from other institutes and 6 percent live alone. More than half of U.S. based religious institutes offer hospitality and support to international sisters who are members of other congregations.

The researchers are currently compiling the findings into a book. The GHR Foundation hosted a day-long symposium in Washington, DC, on March 3 so that key leaders in national Catholic institutions could begin conversations about the networks and structures being developed by and for international sisters to support them in their ministry and life. Project director Sister Mary Johnson explains, “The study helps us realize that our church is more diverse, wherever we are. These international sisters and the people they minister to are in rural areas, urban areas, in all kinds of institutions and ministries. They're present in so many ways that sometimes we don't even see.”  Johnson adds that a second contribution of the study is in “its juxtaposition to the wider society against the backdrop of the political debate over immigration. It demonstrates how complex and beautiful the tapestry of immigrants is in our church and in our society.”

To download the report of the key findings from the study, in English or in Spanish, please visit the GHR Foundation at http://www.ghrfoundation.org/news/report-international-sisters-in-the-united-states

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