Each year, the Catholic Church celebrates World Day for Consecrated Life, a celebration instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1997. 

This observance coincides with the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on Feb. 2, also known as Candlemas Day, commemorating the coming of Christ, the Light of the World, through the symbolic lighting of candles. Similarly, consecrated men and women are called to spread the light and love of Jesus Christ through their unique witness of selfless service, such as caring for the poor, the contemplative work of prayer, or through their professional careers. 

Parishes in the Diocese of Trenton are invited to celebrate consecrated life during the weekend of Feb. 6-7 in recognition of the essential role of consecrated persons in the life of the Church. As engaged members of their local communities, consecrated men and women bring the presence of Jesus to all they encounter throughout their day, allowing his Spirit to live and move within them so that the truth of the Gospel can be proclaimed to all. 

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., marked the occasion by quoting Pope Francis: “Religious life ought to promote growth in the Church by way of attraction.  The Church must be attractive.  Wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of doing things, a different way of acting, of living!  It is possible to live differently in this world.”  

The lives of consecrated women and men are proof of that, the Bishop observed, recognizing the immeasurable impact that consecrated persons have had on the Church of Trenton.  He said, “Since its establishment in 1881, the Diocese of Trenton has grown and flourished in countless ways thanks to the presence, prayer and apostolic works of scores of religious women and men who have generously served here in our four counties.  We are profoundly in their debt.  Our Catholic schools and programs of religious education, our hospitals and nursing homes, our works for the poor, the needy and the elderly, our parishes and diocesan offices could not have succeeded in their mission without the contributions of sisters, brothers and priests in consecrated life.   

“Along with the prayers and service of consecrated virgins and widows, women and men religious have given the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Trenton a legacy of love and light that endures to the present day.  They deserve our grateful prayer and support. With God’s grace, may our Diocese be a source of new vocations to consecrated life, of new and dedicated laborers in the vineyard of the Lord.” 

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate is commissioned annually by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations to conduct a survey of the men and women who solemnly professed in the United States in the past year. Among the major findings of this year’s report are:

  • On average, responding religious report that they were 19 years old when they first considered a vocation to religious life.  
  • The average age of responding religious of the Profession Class of 2019 is 38. Half of the responding religious are age 34 or younger. The youngest is 24 and the oldest is 71.
  • Seven in ten (71%) responding religious report their primary race or ethnicity as Caucasian, European American, or white. One in ten (13%) identifies as Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian. Fewer than one in ten identifies as African/African American/black (7%) and one in twenty (5%) identifies as Hispanic/Latino(a).
  • Three-fourths of responding religious (76%) were born in the United States. Of those born outside the United States, the most common country of origin is Vietnam.
  • On average, the respondents who were born outside the United States were 24 years old when they first came to the United States and lived here for 13 years before perpetual profession. 
  • Nine in ten (89%) responding religious report that someone encouraged them to consider a vocation to religious life. Respondents are less likely to report that they received encouragement from their family members than from parish priests, friends, or from a religious sister or brother.
  • Three-fourths (74%) of the Profession Class of 2020 have more than one sibling. A quarter (25%) has one brother or sister. A third (35%) report having two or three siblings. Two-fifths (39%) have four or more siblings.
  • Three quarters of the respondents (75%) are from families where both parents are Catholic. Just over four in five (84%) have been Catholic since birth. Among the 16% of respondents who became Catholic later in life, the average age at which they entered the Church was 20 years old. 
  • Nearly half of the responding religious (45%) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is higher than that for all Catholic adults in the United States (16%).  These respondents are also more likely than other U.S. Catholics to have attended a Catholic high school (38 of responding religious, compared to 8% of U.S. adult Catholics) and much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (38% of responding religious, compared to 5% of U.S. adult Catholics). 

 The entire CARA survey and information on the members of Profession Class of 2020 can be accessed at: Profession Classes | USCCB.