A novena beginning this week invites Catholics to join prayerfully in the effort to build a culture of vocations in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It comes as a new study indicates the leading factor influencing a man to consider priesthood is a personal invitation.

The Office for Vocations to Diocesan Priesthood is sponsoring the novena spanning Saturday, April 25 to Sunday, May 3, the culmination of the 57th World Day of Prayer for Vocations in the universal church.  

Seminarians of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary will lead the devotion on nine consecutive days through videos of daily reflections and prayers on the Vocations Office website at HeedTheCall.org/novena and on Facebook at facebook.com/phillypriest.

In his message for the World Day of Prayer, Pope Francis cited the story of the disciples tossed about by a storm at sea, and how Jesus calmed their fears and stilled the waves. The pope’s theme for the day, therefore, is “Jesus, I trust in you.”

“Every vocation is born of that gaze of love with which the Lord came to meet us, perhaps even at a time when our boat was being battered by the storm,” Pope Francis wrote. “Vocation, more than our own choice, is a response to the Lord’s unmerited call. We will succeed in discovering and embracing our vocation once we open our hearts in gratitude and perceive the passage of God in our lives.”

Men responding to God’s call to become a priest through ordination this year have indicated in a new survey some traits of those entering ministry in the United States and aspects of their vocational journey.

The survey released April 23 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations saw a 77% response rate among the 448 men to be ordained in the U.S. this year.

Of the respondents, 82% will be ordained for U.S. dioceses and 18% for religious orders.

A leading finding of the survey is that nine in 10 respondents (89%) were encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life — a parish priest, friend or another parishioner. 

Another pillar of the priest candidates’ journey is prayer with the church.

Seven in 10 respondents (72%) participated in eucharistic adoration on a regular basis before entering the seminary, the survey found. A similar proportion (70%) prayed the rosary, 44% attended prayer group or Bible study and 38% participated in high school retreats.

Although 73% of respondents served as altar servers before entering the seminary, only about 40% of respondents attended a Catholic school for at least some part of their schooling.

Engagement in liturgical life was another significant factor. Half of respondents served as lectors and 40% served as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.

The survey indicates some racial diversity among the ordination class of 2020, although it is predominantly Caucasian, at 67%. Another 16% is Hispanic/Latino, 10% is Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian and 6% is African/African American/black, according to CARA. 

The four most common countries of birth among those foreign-born are Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria and Colombia.

And even though the average age of new priests to be ordained nationwide is 34 years old, on average, the respondents were 16 years old when they first considered the priesthood.

The implication for Catholics who rely on priests and religious especially in a time of heightened appreciation for the sacraments, most of which are suspended publicly during the stay-at-home orders due to coronavirus, is to pray and invite vocations among young people.