WASHINGTON — The number of Roman Catholic seminarians in graduate-level training for the priesthood increased 4% this academic year, according to data compiled by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.
The data from 46 schools showed 3,474 seminarians, compared with 3,344 for 1998-99. The numbers are closely watched because of the increasing shortage of U.S. priests.
The high point for graduate enrollment was 8,159 in 1967-68.
At the same time, details on about 400 new priests expected to be ordained this year by the church highlight demographic changes in America's Catholic population.
Twelve percent of the new priests are Latino, and 9% are Asian American. Forty-two of the priests will be ordained in dioceses in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee. Catholics make up about 12% of the population in the South, a figure that has doubled in the past 50 years.
In the Western United States, the church plans 36 ordinations in Colorado, Idaho, Washington, Oklahoma, California, Oregon and Utah. The Catholic population in Western states has increased by 2 1/2 times in the past 50 years.