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Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary.PBS / Youtube

Update April 17, 2018: This report now includes a comment from Draper Warren, admissions director for Seton Home Study School in Front Royal, Virginia.

April 11, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Vocations to the Catholic priesthood are thriving in the greatest numbers among homeschooled students, a new study says.

Young American men who have been homeschooled are four times more likely to enter seminary than those educated by Catholic institutions, according to the findings.

Data from the 2017 survey performed by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University said that nearly one in 10 young men in formation for the priesthood in the U.S. was homeschooled.

The findings demonstrate the positive effect that Catholic homeschooling has on vocations, said Draper Warren, admissions director for Seton Home Study School in Front Royal, Virginia. Warren analyzed the data in a report for Seton Magazine.

“The evidence is highly encouraging,” Warren said. “Going forward, the impact could be enormous.” 

While the number of homeschooled American Catholics is small compared with those in Catholic schools – currently 100,000 homeschooled students to two million in Catholic schools – the study said homeschool students delivered eight percent of the young men who are studying for the priesthood.

On average, the young men had spent seven years being homeschooled, the Catholic Herald reported, and 16 was the average age for discerning a vocation to the priesthood.

The uptick in vocations from Catholic homeschool families is evident in the Diocese of Arlington, Father J.D. Jaffe, vocations director for the diocese, said in the Seton report.

“Homeschoolers have a disproportionately large participation in our discernment events in comparison to Catholic school and public school kids,” Jaffe said. “The same increased numbers are seen in our seminarians where roughly 30 percent of them are from homeschooling households.”

Seton Magazine spoke with seminarian Nikolai Brelinsky, a 2015 graduate of the Catholic home study program who is currently studying at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary near Philadelphia.

Brelinsky said homeschooling was helpful, and views it as one of the key components in the discernment process.

“It certainly provided an atmosphere to consider it,” he said. “In my personal opinion, homeschooling fosters the Catholic faith. Being homeschooled didn’t make me want to be a priest, but it did help me answer the calling through immersion of faith. Homeschooling goes hand in hand with the faith aspect.”

The numbers among Brelinsky’s fellow seminarians back up the CARA study’s findings, with 10 of 47 currently in the seminary coming from a homeschool background.

According to the Catholic Herald report, Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien was quoted in the archdiocesan newspaper in 2013 as saying; “There’s no greater feeder for the vocations than the homeschoolers.”

The CARA survey results come as the number of priestly ordinations in the U.S. has continually dropped overall by roughly half since 1965, and the Church faces declining numbers of priests in countries throughout the world.

The Vatican’s Central Statistics Office reported last year that vocations to the priesthood worldwide had continued a downward trend between 2012 and 2015, the latest year in the Office’s report.

Bishop James Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, a leader among U.S. dioceses for attracting candidates for the priesthood that alternates with the Wichita diocese for having the highest number of priests-per-lay-Catholics in the country, told Catholic World Report in 2016 that the secret of a successful vocation program starts with prayer.

“Vocations come from God,” Conley said.

Lincoln has two cloistered communities of religious women in the diocese that pray constantly for vocations.

The other key to vocations, Conley said, is fidelity to Church teaching.

Brelinsky reported that having a supportive family, involvement within the homeschooling community and church activities were influences for him in fostering a strong faith experience in his developmental years. He also listed community service, annual homeschool Masses with the bishop and weekly Eucharistic adoration.

Homeschool families consistently report that among the benefits of homeschooling are that it allows for the family to have more time together, as well as time for prayer, and for integration of the Catholic faith throughout their children’s studies.