Far-reaching changes continue to take place in the American priesthood. Building on insights gained from four previous surveys, Same Call, Different Men uses fresh data from a 2009 survey-jointly implemented by the National Federation of Priest's Councils and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate-in which 900 priests shared attitudes and stories about their lives and ministry. Among topics covered are the challenges of ministry with fewer ordinations and larger parishes, ministering to an increasingly multicultural laity, collaboration with lay leaders, and personal reflections on the sexual abuse issue. It also relates the many satisfactions of being a priest, one who brings Christ to others and who is invited into many profound moments of individual lives.
Mary L. Gautier is a senior research associate at CARA, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, where she specializes in Catholic demographic trends in the United States, and edits The CARA Report, a quarterly research publication. She taught sociology at Louisiana State University and Texas Christian University and has served as a lay pastoral associate. She holds a doctorate in sociology and has co-authored several books.
Paul M. Perl is a research associate at CARA, focusing on attitudinal surveys of lay Catholics and surveys of priests for dioceses. His research interests include the effects of Catholic schooling, public opinion in reaction to the sex abuse scandal, and Spanish speaking Catholics. He has a PhD in sociology from the University of Notre Dame and lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and son.
Stephen J. Fichter is a research associate and former interim executive director at CARA, and the pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Haworth, NJ. He specializes in clergy research and leads the collaboration between CARA and the National Organization for Continuing Education for Roman Catholic Clergy. He has a PhD in sociology from Rutgers University.
Same Call, Different Men is a must-read for bishops, priests, any Catholic, or any person seeking to know and understand what priests feel on a wide range of issues. The current research builds upon previous studies giving one a sense of what has changed and what remains the same in the lives of priests. What fulfills priests, what frustrates and upsets priests, what challenges them in their ministry are all addressed in the research as well as how the sexual abuse crisis has pained and burdened priests. Programmatic follow up to this research is critical and would help address the need for more priests.
Most Reverend Gerald F. Kicanas, Bishop of Tucson
This fascinating study is required reading for anyone who wants to understand the Catholic priesthood in the United States. Many otherwise intelligent commentators base their conclusions about the lives and experiences of priests on hearsay or anecdote. The great virtue of this sociological study is that it lets American priests speak for themselves. And what they say may surprise those who do not know them: they're happy.
James Martin, SJ, author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything
This thorough and thoughtful study compiles responses, by both diocesan and religious priests, to questions on the impact of such factors as changing demographics, collaboration patterns, and satisfaction levels on their ministry. The responses will confirm your intuitions, encourage you with some positive perspectives, challenge some of your presuppositions, unsettle you with implications, and offer you substantiated insights into generational differences. This readable and enlightening text deserves a reflective reading by laity, religious, priests, and bishops alike.
Father John Pavlik, Executive Director of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men
A great strength of the book, as of the prior 2003 volume in the series, is the inclusion of reflections from four thoughtful Catholic leaders and the extensive use of quoted interview material to flesh out the survey findings. CARA's practical focus comes to the fore in a final chapter providing concrete advice for encouraging new vocations to the priesthood.
Anyone wanting the facts about priestly self-understanding in the last four decades should read this book. Based on solid sociological research and filled with even-handed judgments, the book continues a long line of professional studies that demonstrate that the Catholic priesthood, though sorely tested, is hardly down and out. To the contrary, priests generally remain faithful, productive and happy. CARA, NFPC and the authors are to be congratulated for this useful and up-to-date study.
Ronald D. Witherup, SS, Superior General of the Sulpicians and author of Gold Tested in Fire: A New Pentecost for the Catholic Priesthood
The strong suit of Same Call, Different Men is that Gautier, Perl and Fichter gives us a data-driven research study with a human face. The narrative character of their reporting-with numerous personal accounts from selected priests on issues facing today's priesthood-makes for an engaging and enlightening read.
Rev. Donald Cozzens, writer in residence at John Carroll University and author of The Changing Face of the Priesthood and Sacred Silence: Denial and the Crisis in the Church
This book is a "must read" for anyone who would like real data on crucial issues in the U.S. church.
American Catholic Studies
Same Call Different Men is an important book. It describes a number of trends among priests (e.g., they are getting older), probes specific issues (the effects of the sexual abuse scandal on other priests), spots emerging concerns (the demands of serving multiple parishes), and suggests ways to address these challenges (training in collaborative ministry). The book clearly documents to the complexities of the priesthood and the real-life experiences of priests, such as the personal satisfaction that can accompany a life of service in the Church and the working conditions that can limit that satisfaction. It offers readers a balanced interpretation of good news and bad news, an honest mixture of predictable findings and surprising results, and an even-handed inventory of problems and signs of renewal. The thoughtful reflections of Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Sr. Katarina Schuth, Msgr. Jeremiah McCarthy, and Dr. Dianne Traflet are a bonus. Same Call Diffe ent Men proves, once again, that, when it is conducted by competent professionals, social research is a valuable resource for everyone who wants to understand and strengthen the Church.
James D. Davidson, Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, Purdue University