June 16, 2019

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“For more large families from which will spring priestly and religions vocations,” let us pray to the Lord?

With a brother and sister-in-law who suffered infertility during the first ten years of their marriage I am quite sensitive to the impossibility of drawing conclusions about a couple from the mere number of children that they happen to have. If I can find a better way to word the intention I certainly am happy to do so. Encouraging large families, however, will not change.

Although I do know a few priests and religious who come from average size families, the data which The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate tracks each year reveal that family size plays a large role in vocations.

Of those who last year made religious profession in the US, "nearly eight in ten responding religious (79 percent) of the Profession Class of 2018 have more than one sibling. One in five (18 percent) has one brother or sister. A third (34 percent) report having two or three. Nearly half (45 percent) have four or more siblings."

Similarly, of the men ordained this year "almost all responding ordinands (97 percent) have at least one sibling. More than half (54 percent) have three siblings or more. On average, responding ordinands have three siblings (a median of two)."

According to the US Census, the average household in the US in 2018 is 2.53 persons. The most recent study by CARA on Catholic Family Demographics in 2015 reports that "the median number of children for Catholics [born 1883-1942] was three. For Baby Boomers (born 1943 to 1960) and Generation X Catholics the median number of children is two. It is too early to know if adult Millennial Catholics today will differ as they currently range in age from 18 to 33. However, as of 2014, 67 percent of Millennial adult Catholics had no children and only 30 percent had married."

I have served where a mother of three was scolded in the church lobby after one of my Masses by someone who asked her if she had ever heard of contraception! Think about that.

All Catholic families deserve encouragement, especially those subject to harassment. Sometimes small families are more difficult. Is anything more demanding than having two babies under the age of four? Large or small, may your family be blessed.

We pray to the Lord.

Fr. Christopher J. Pollard