National survey of Catholic ministry formation programs

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Mon, 07/01/1996
End Date: 
Mon, 06/30/1997

For almost three decades the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., (CARA) has published the CARA Seminary Directory, the most authoritative source of information on trends in Catholic priestly formation. Responding to recent dramatic changes in the nature of ministry, CARA developed a similar survey of lay ministry programs, and in 1995 published the CARA Lay Ministry Formation Directory. The rapidly changing dynamics in parish-ministry staffing has convinced CARA that it should henceforth produce a single directory covering seminary, diaconate formation, and lay ministry formation programs. The last quarter century has witnessed a revolution in the ministry structure of Catholic parishes in the United States. Approximately 20,000 laity and religious are currently employed in Catholic ministry; in some areas lay ministers now make up the majority of parish staffs. The number of permanent deacons rises annually; currently there are around 12,000. Candidates for the permanent diaconate outnumber those for the priesthood. Seminaries and theological schools are now populated by a mix of laity and candidates for the priesthood. More than half of all students pursuing ministry degrees at theological schools are now lay-men and -women rather than candidates for the priesthood. Catholic colleges and universities that originally designed programs to prepare lay ministers now train priests, deacons and religious. Given the multiple roles such institutions now fill and the diverse student populations they serve, CARA will now produce a single directory analyzing survey data on formation programs for priests, deacons, and lay ministers. CARA, in consultation with the NCEA Seminary Department, the NCCB Secretariat for the Diaconate, the National Association for Lay Ministry, the Association for Graduate Programs in Ministry, and the NCCB Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women and Youth, designed and tested questionnaires, databases, and formats. Qualifying ministry formation programs in all the dioceses in the United States were identified, and each program director received a questionnaire. From this database were culled information on enrollment trends, curriculum, institutional sponsorship, administrative personnel and costs for a total of 615 ministry formation programs. All data will be updated annually. The CARA directory will serve as an important planning resource for parish, diocesan, and national church decision makers. By looking at Catholic ministry formation as a whole, the directory will provide a complete picture of the available pastoral workforce. The combined directory will provide comprehensive information on all the Catholic ministry formation programs and define trends in the enrollment and curriculum of these programs.