Fr Pawel Rozpiatkowski
Priestly and religious vocation is another subject of the sociological research, which the Institute of Statistics of the Catholic Church conducted among regularly practicing Catholics. The research was ordered by ‘Niedziela’. The results of the survey show that Polish practicing Catholics want their sons to become priests more than they want their daughters to enter religious congregations. This is one of the most astonishing results of the research.
Over half of the respondents, exactly 55.7%, answered ‘decisively yes’ and ‘rather yes’ to the question whether they wanted their sons to become priests whereas almost 20% less respondents answered the identical question whether they wanted their daughters to enter religious congregations. Only 14.9% of the responders answered ‘decisively yes’ and 22.3% answered ‘rather yes.’
Almost every tenth practicing Catholic did not want his son to become a priest. 5.7% of the respondents answered ‘rather not’ and 2.1% answered ‘no’. (In comparison with the identical question posed in 2002 to a representative group of Poles only 21.1% of the respondents answered ‘decisively yes’ or ‘rather yes’ and 25.1% chose ‘decisively not’ and ‘rather not’.)
The number of parents who would be against their daughters entering religious congregations doubled in the recent survey. 12.3% of them said ‘rather not’ and 6.4% said ‘no’. Apart from those respondents for whom the question was not relevant there were those who had no opinion about the subject. 13.3% did not know whether they would like God to call their sons to priesthood and almost 4 % more did not know whether they would desire religious vocations for their daughters. 0.5% of the respondents did not answer the first question and 2.4% did not answer the second question. The interesting thing is that more fathers were in favour of priestly vocations for their sons. Six out of ten fathers (60%) answered ‘decisively yes’ and ‘rather yes’. Less than half of the mothers (50.8%) would like their sons to become priests. But slightly more fathers than mothers were against their daughters entering religious congregations. 20% of the fathers answered ‘rather not’ and ‘no’ whereas 17.1% mothers answered ‘rather not’ and ‘no’. However, one should consider that in both cases the number of the women in the survey was a few per cent bigger than the number of the men. The differences concerning the attitude towards priestly vocations and women’s vocations are partly explained by the question about the needs in the parish. The respondents were presented a list of vocations that were realized in the Church and they were asked which of them were most needed in their own parishes. They indicated diocesan priestly vocations as the most important ones (54.3 % of the respondents). The other vocations were considerably less frequently indicated. 18.2% chose religious priestly vocations, 14.5% chose women’s vocations and only 4.3% chose religious brothers. 9.7 % of the respondents said that they did not know what to choose. The answers to the next question were not surprising. The respondents did not agree that priests treated their vocations as ‘one of the professions to meet the needs’. Catholics still define big requirements for priests. Almost all of the respondents (95.5%) saw priests and nuns as sanctified people who are to fulfil religious functions and they wanted them to see their religious lives in a similar way. Which factors decide about discerning vocations and growing in vocations? What is the most important factor? Family? Testimonies of priests? The very personality of a young person? The opinions of practicing Polish Catholics are diverse on this matter. Although four out of ten respondents (39.3%) chose family as the most important factor, 32.2% (only 7.1% less) of the respondents indicated that the key factor was the personality. 27.3% saw the decisive role of contacts with priests. What is the best time to enter seminary: after finishing high school or a little bit later? The answers are equally divided. Almost half and half. The seminary educators have already noted the phenomenon called ‘late vocations’. Currently, it is men in their 20s and 30s that enter seminary. Men who completed their studies or sometimes men who have worked for several years decide to become priests. Almost half of the respondents (48.3%) said that young people should enter seminary later than just after they completed high school. 46.9% of the respondents (1.4% less) thought that young people should realize their vocations just after their final examinations. Women chose the first option more often than men and so did young people. The difference is bigger as far as the second option is concerned. As many as 71.7% of the respondents who were under 25 years of age thought that it would be better to enter seminary later. The Pallotine Institute, directed by Rev. Professor Witold Zdaniewicz, posed another question: do priestly or religious vocations allow people to reach their personal growth? The majority of answers were ‘yes, to a very big extent’ (47.6%) and ‘to a big extent’ (40%). Only 6.9% thought that the extent was small and a very small number of the respondents (1.2%) answered that religious vocations did not allow people to reach their personal growth.
The choice of priestly vocations allows people to serve the Church and society better, with a slight indication to the Church. 96.7% of the respondents said that realizing priestly vocations was beneficial to the Church to a very big or big extent. Very many respondents, but clearly fewer (87.2%), saw a social dimension of priests’ service. 42.4% of the respondents chose the option that priestly or religious vocations allow people to serve society ‘to a very big extent’ and 44.8% indicated ‘to a big extent’.
A relatively small group, although a fairly big number, saw the problem of anti-clericalism in the Polish society. Responding to the question whether the young people who chose religious vocations were understood and socially respected 15.6% of the respondents chose ‘no’. It was the young people that more often chose the answer. One out of five respondents who were under 25 indicated the answer. And every fifth respondent from the age group 26-40 chose the answer. The respondents coming from big cities (over 100,000 inhabitants) chose the answer more frequently (23.5%). Can priesthood be attractive to young people? ‘Yes’ – according to 54.5% of the respondents and ‘no’ according to 20.4%. 24.6% indicated ‘no opinion about this matter’. Altar boys very often decide to follow priestly vocations. Working with young people, many a time with children, yield the fruit of priestly vocations. Altar boys were in almost all parishes of the respondents. Only 4% of the respondents said that there were no altar boys in their parishes. But still many vocations originated from that group. Almost 70% of the respondents admitted that within the last ten years some altar boys chose priestly or religious vocations. Only one out of four parishes was noted to have no priestly vocations and 6.4% of the parishes answered that they did not know about it. 91.9% of the respondents said that there were some services or prayers for the intention of priestly vocations celebrated in their parishes within the last year. 1.7 % said that there were no services and 5.2% did not know about any services. Together with the Institute of Statistics of the Catholic Church we also asked about the most radical way of vocation, namely the contemplative men’s and women’s orders. What do practicing Catholics think about them? They saw their significant roles but their roles concerned the whole Church (89.3% said that their roles were very big and big) and 54.5% saw their significance for the smallest structure of the Church, i.e. the parish.
The research was conducted among 422 practicing Catholics by the Institute run by the Pallotine Order. The group was selected at random from the list of several hundred thousand Catholics who declared to be believing and practicing. The list is at the disposal of the Institute.
Can in your opinion the religious status be treated as:
95,5% – sanctified religious function (it has a sacral, religious character)
4,5% – one of the professions to meet the needs
What is in your opinion the most influential factor deciding about the priestly vocation of a young person:
39,3% – his family
32,2% – his personality
27,3% – the priests he meets