New figures for 2012 show numbers of men and women entering religious orders have risen for the third year running, while ordinations to the priesthood have reached a ten-year high. There were 29 people entering religious life in 2010, rising to 36 in 2011 and 53 in 2012. Meanwhile, 20 men were ordained to the diocesan priesthood in 2011 and 31 in 2012, with 41 diocesan ordinations projected for 2013.
The ordination figures do not include religious men ordained to the priesthood, nor ordinations to the Ordinariate, of which there were 21 last year.
As these two tables show, current diocesan ordination figures (excluding the Ordinariate and the religious orders) are lower than the 1980s-90s, which were inflated by a sudden influx of former Anglican priests as well as the so-called ‘JPII bounce’ following the Pope’s 1982 visit. But the current figures are still considerably higher than the 1930s-40s. (‘Decline’, in other words, is a relative notion which demands the question, ‘from what?’)
But if we add together the diocesan and Ordinariate ordinations for 2012, we have a figure of 52 — higher than the 1950s, which some look back to nostalgically as an era of vigorous Catholicism.
If ordinations to the priesthood are a sign of religious vitality, in other words, the Church in England and Wales seems to be in robust good health.
[NB Following queries about the reliability of the statistics relating to the 1930s-40s, the National Office for Vocation is making enquiries. We will update as new information is forthcoming.]