The Irish Catholic Church in 1958 – A Statistical Overview
In January of this year, I posted a paper by Dr. Jeremiah Newman from 1958 on Priestly Vocations in Ireland. At that Conference in Vienna where he read the paper, he also gave a statistical supplement, which is posted below:
A. Priests and People in Ireland (Statistics from Irish Catholic Directory).
1. Total Catholic population of all Ireland: 3,257,400.
2. Total number of priests in Ireland (1956): 5,489.
3. Proportion of priests to people: 1 priest for every 593 Catholics.
4. Numbers of diocesan clergy and religious in Ireland:
1920 1940 1950 1956
Diocesan 3081 3354 3563 3772
Religious 754 1024 1481 1717
B. General Indications of Vocation (Priestly) Trend in Ireland.
1. Diocesan Clergy ordained — Totals for decades and averages per annum:
1920-30 1931-40 1941-50
Total 926 957 857
Average per annum 92 95 98
2. Priests ordained in Ireland for English-speaking areas — U.S.A., England, etc. (Statistics from Irish Catholic Directory):
1921-30 1931-40 1941-50
Total 797 835 874
Average per annum 79 83 87
3. Departures (for the first time) of Irish priests to territories under Propaganda (Statistics from Pagan Missions):
1935 1950 1956
Total 66 185 161
4. Total number of ordinations to the priesthood in Ireland during the year 1957 (Statistics from Irish Catholic Directory): 334.
5. Number of seminarians per 100,000 Catholics (Statistics from Herder Korrespondenz, May 1955):
Germany – 14
Holland – 18
Italy – 20
France – 22
U.S.A. – 26
Ireland – 75
6. Percentage of those who persevere to ordination (figures supplied by the proper authorities): 60%. With some Orders the figure is higher, being based on the novitiate.
C. General Statistics for Irish Overseas Mission Work.
1. It is impossible to get complete statistics. The number of Irish priests working abroad is unknown. We have as yet no Central Bureau of Ecclesiastical Statistics in Ireland. In addition, there are the added difficulties that some Irish priests working abroad are listed only according to the Diocese or Province of the Order to which they belong, while no figures are available for those Societies which have no foundations in Ireland but which recruit men there for their missions.
2. Non-Pagan Missions:
(a) Ireland’s missionary activities began amongst non-pagan, and English-speaking, peoples. For over a century, six major seminaries here have turned out a constant stream of diocesan priests for these areas. Example: St. Patrick’s College, Carlow, which, between 1920-1956 sent out priests as follows:
U.S.A. – 334
Gt. Britain – 274
Australia – 131
N. Zealand – 16
S. Africa – 10
France – 2
(b) Total number of priests ordained in Ireland for English-speaking areas, such as U.S.A., England, etc., between 1911-1950. (Statistics from Irish Catholic Directory): 2506.
3. Pagan Missions:
(a) At the beginning of the century Ireland’s missionary efforts amongst pagan peoples were carried on mainly by the Irish Provinces of the Society of African Missions and the Holy Ghost Fathers. At present these societies have respectively about 400 and 600 priests in the mission field.
(b) Two new Societies for missionary priests have been founded since 1918:
St. Columban’s Foreign Mission Society (1918) – 700 priests
St. Patrick’s Foreign Mission Society (1932) – 180 priests
(c) Other Orders have smaller numbers of priests on the missions.
(d) Total number of Irish priests in territory under Propaganda, excluding the Philippine Islands and English-speaking areas like Australia, etc. (Statistics from Catholic Missions):
1931 1939 1955
385 627 2162
4. Total number of Irish priests working overseas. The figure quoted by World Mission is one priest on the missions for every priest at home. This would make the number about 5,000.
D. Cost of educating students for the priesthood in Irish Religious Houses and Seminaries, during philosophy and theology courses. (Figures supplied by the proper authorities):
Capuchins – £1,000 for entire course (figures for some years ago).
Oblates – £1,500.
Passionists – £250 per annum (no separate accounts kept for students).
Redemptorists – £150 per annum.
St. Patrick’s Foreign Mission Society – £98 per annum (no separate accounts kept for students).
St. Columban’s Foreign Mission Society – £150 per annum.
Maynooth College – £150 per annum. This figure does not include the cost of books, clothes, travel and the many other necessary personal expenses of every student. According to a recent survey, about £900, on the average, is contributed by his parents towards the total cost of a student’s education while in Maynooth College.
Note: In the compilation of these statistics I have been greatly helped by Very Rev. T. Connolly, Superior, and Rev. Joseph McGlade, both of Saint Columban’s Foreign Mission Society.