Overall U.S. Seminarian Tally Continues to Fall

According to statistics published by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., current enrollment in the graduate level of priestly formation in the continental United States and Puerto Rico totals 3,158 — 2,359 for diocesan candidates and 799 for those from religious orders. This figure includes those candidates in formation programs abroad sponsored by the American bishops, such as the North American College in Rome and the American College in Louvain, Belgium. Theologate totals for the previous year, 1996–97, were 3,276.

According to CARA figures, the number of seminarians at the college and high school levels continues to drop. In 1991, there were 1,911 college-level seminarians. By 1998, the figure had fallen to 1,516, with an even sharper decline in numbers for high school seminarians — from 1,483 in 1991 to this year's total of 853. These figures do not reflect the numbers of students enrolled outside high school and college-level programs. In so-called pre-theology programs, for example, there's been a marked increase in candidates since the 1980s. (There were fewer than 200 candidates in pre-theology programs in 1980; today, there are more than 500, comprising 17 percent of all theology-level seminarians.)

Among the top 10 theologates by enrollment, Mundelein Seminary in Illinois has 187 college-level students in 1997–98, while the North American College in Rome has 156. The Franciscan University of Steubenville boasts one of the largest pre-theology programs, with 65 students this academic year. The Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in New Jersey also includes 49 seminarians associated with the Neo-Catechumenal Way.

A generation ago, in 1967–68, diocesan and religious order seminary enrollments totaled more than 8,000, and college and high school seminary figures stood at a combined figure of nearly 30,000.

Gabriel Meyer