" In times marked by fragility but also by the sufferings due to the pandemic ... St. Joseph comes to meet us in his gentle way. " Pope Francis

In recognition of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations April 25, Pope Francis is encouraging those discerning a vocation to ordained ministry and consecrated life to look to St. Joseph as a guide.

“God looks on the heart (cf. 1 Sam 16:7), and in Saint Joseph he recognized the heart of a father, able to give and generate life in the midst of daily routines. Vocations have this same goal: to beget and renew lives every day,” Pope Francis said in his message for the 2021 World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

The day, in its 58th year, is traditionally celebrated on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, commonly known as Good Shepherd Sunday.

Last December, Pope Francis marked the 150th anniversary of the Church’s declaration of St. Joseph as Patron of the universal Church and proclaimed the Year of Saint Joseph (December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021).

In his vocations message, Pope Francis again turned to St. Joseph as a guide for fathers and mothers, both biological and spiritual, who seek to foster the gift of vocation in the hearts of those entrusted to them.

“The Lord desires to shape the hearts of fathers and mothers: hearts that are open, capable of great initiatives, generous in self-giving, compassionate in comforting anxieties and steadfast in strengthening hopes.

“The priesthood and the consecrated life greatly need these qualities nowadays, in times marked by fragility but also by the sufferings due to the pandemic, which has spawned uncertainties and fears about the future and the very meaning of life. St. Joseph comes to meet us in his gentle way, as one of ‘the saints next door.’ At the same time, his strong witness can guide us on the journey.”

In conjunction with the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations released the Ordination Class of 2021 Study, conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University. A few of the major findings of the report:

• On average, responding ordinands first considered priesthood when they were 17 years old.

• Two-thirds of responding ordinands (65%) are Caucasian. One in six (16%) are Latino/Hispanic. One in ten (10%) are Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian. And one in twenty (6%) are African/African American/black.

• The four most common countries of origin among foreign-born ordinands are Mexico, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Poland.

• Three in five (60%) completed an undergraduate or graduate degree before entering seminary.

• In regard to participation in various activities before entering the seminary, half of all responding ordinands (46%) participated in a parish youth group. A quarter (25%) participated in Catholic campus ministry/Newman Center.

• Nine in 10 responding ordinands (93%) report being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life (most frequently, the parish priest, a friend, or another parishioner).

• Half of responding ordinands (47%) indicate that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood by one or more persons. Most often, this person was a family member (other than parents) or a friend/classmate.

The full CARA report and profiles of the Ordination Class of 2021 can be accessed at: https://www.usccb.org/committees/clergy-consecrated-life-vocations/ordination-classes