yesterday, the key finding of the recent Boston College report College Experience and Priesthood is that attending a Catholic college rather than a secular institution is more likely to foster a vocation to ministerial priesthood.
In its analysis of participation in devotional and spiritual exercises during the college years of those in formation or recently ordained, the report perhaps unsurprisingly identified access to spiritual direction as a key indicator of a future vocation. And here there was a very significant gap between the experience of those who attended a Catholic college and those who did not:
Only 39% of non-Catholic college attendees had a regular spiritual director, compared with 62% of Catholic college attendees.
Amongst other spiritual exercises listed, the greatest difference between Catholic and non-Catholic college attendees was not regarding Eucharistic adoration - highlighted by the report - but, rather, praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Of those attending Catholic colleges and now in formation or just ordained, 67% participated in the Liturgy of the Hours, compared to 48% non-Catholic college attendees. This is the greatest gap of any spiritual practice analysed in the report.
Here we see something of the 'how' US Catholic colleges produce more priestly vocations than non-Catholic colleges. The lesson for Anglican university chaplaincies? Facilitating spiritual direction and participation in the praying of the daily office are the two exercises which, on the basis of the evidence of the Boston College report, are most likely to produce a culture of vocation and vocations to the ministerial priesthood. What is more, this surely also has relevance for almost every parish community - spiritual direction and praying the daily office fosters the vocation of all the baptised and, within this, priestly vocations.
For catholic Anglicans, perhaps the chief lesson here is to recover a sense of confidence in our own pastoral traditions - spiritual direction and the daily office have been the bread-and-butter of catholic Anglicanism since the 19th century catholic renewal. How we do this, how we facilitate participation in the context of the early 21st century, of course, requires significant thought and some innovative approaches. But, the evidence of the Boston College report is that the basic spiritual exercises of the catholic tradition work. They nurture and foster vocation.