To be sure, CARA's Catholic Ministry Formation Directory, edited by Mary L. Gautier, is not for reading but for reference. Its origins go back to 1967 when CARA published a "Seminary Directory". But this volume, now named the CARA "Ministry Formation Directory", also includes a "Diaconate Formation Directory" and a "Lay Ecclesial Ministry Formation Directory". Each directory section begins with a statistical overview followed by an index and alphabetical listing of individual programs organized by state, diocese, and program name.
This mega-directory of clerical and lay formation programs will be useful to program interested individuals. But as even the CARA title change - from seminary to ministry formation — suggests, the assembled data can also give a quick statistical jolt to both the sociological imagination and the reformist impulse.
For example, the text begins with the graph "Overall Seminary Enrollment Trends: 1968 - 2005). We learn that, compared to just under 14,000 in 1968, enrollments in 2005 numbered 3,308. The number 14,000 also appears in the next section in the graph "Deacon and Deacon Candidates, 1971 - 2005", as the deacon-candidate total for 2005, up from zero for 1971. But the largest formation number - 18,847 - appears in the last section in the graph "Lay Ecclesial Ministry Formation Programs, 1985 - 2005). The numerical climb here goes from 110 in 1985 to the current 18,847 (which omits data from the 24 programs — of the total 289 — which did not provide enrollment figures). Such numbers of ministry-interested Catholics going in opposing north-south directions make it a complicated task for any confident diagnosis of an American Catholic Church state of health.
Thanks to CARA for the addresses and the numbers. Any one for interpretation?