Catholic homeschools bolster religious vocations, study reveals

A new study on priestly vocations suggests a growing trend in the United States. Homeschooled young men are apparently more likely to consider entering the Catholic seminary compared to those who come from Catholic schools.

(Reuters/Brian C. Frank)The Keagle family take part in Bible study during their homeschool schedule in St. Charles, Iowa.

Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) conducted a survey in 2017 of two million participants from Catholic institutions and 100,000 homeschooled individuals. At least eight percent, or one in 10 of the respondents, were determined for ordination from the homeschooled group.

Though homeschoolers are still generally a minority, the rising numbers are giving the vocation of priesthood a boost. Father J. D. Jaffe, a director of vocations, confirms in the report that he observes the trend in his own diocese in Arlington, Virginia.

"Homeschoolers have a disproportionately large participation in our discernment events in comparison to Catholic school and public school kids," he said. "The same increased numbers are seen in our seminarians where roughly 30% of them are from homeschooling households," Jaffe added.

Young men with at least seven years of homeschooling experience consider the priesthood as early as 16 years old. Nikolai Brelinsky, a seminarian from Philadelphia who was homeschooled as a child, said that a homeschool environment "goes hand in hand with the faith aspect." At the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, where Brelinsky attends, 10 were previously homeschooled out of the 47 seminarians.

In 2015, the Vatican released a report stating a decline in the number of men entering the Catholic priesthood, especially in Europe and North America. Bishop James Conley from Lincoln, Nebraska, whose clergy maintains a significant number of men entering the seminary yearly, might know the reason for this. He believes that aside from a calling from God, family and issues about family, which are tenets of homeschooling, also heavily influence a young man's decision to become a priest.

"Life comes out of the family, and a candidate's understanding of marriage and human sexuality is crucial," he told the Catholic World Report.