Catholic World Report has released its annual list of the 20 best and 20 worst dioceses in the United States for vocations. The grading is based upon the ratio between seminarians to lay Catholics in all 176 dioceses in the country.
The top 20: Lincoln, Juneau, Tulsa, Rapid City, Cheyenne, Duluth, Peoria, Denver, Wichita, Lexington, Tyler, Bismarck, Fargo, Nashville, Spokane, Pensacola-Tallahassee, Memphis, Mobile, Yakima, and Sioux City.
The bottom 20: San Diego, Honolulu, Metuchen, Las Vegas, Laredo, Los Angeles, New York, Hartford, El Paso, Rochester, Santa Rosa, San Antonio, Galveston-Houston, Rockville Centre, Boston, Syracuse, Detroit, San Bernardino, Reno, and Monterey.
There's a couple of things I've noticed about the study. One, it fails to take into account the massive number of Catholics in dioceses like New York, Boston and Los Angeles, three major immigration centres that will always have an extraordinarily high number of lay Catholics, but a lower number of vocationally religious Catholics. Two, the authors of the report admit that due to the volatility of seminarian life, ie being moved to different dioceses every six to twelve months, it is possible that the results could be wildly inaccurate. Take for example the two dioceses the report singles out: "The Diocese of Shreveport, for example, surged from 176th to 61st in the rankings between 2003 and 2006, while the Diocese of Lubbock declined from 9th to 121st." I haven't read through all of the report, and I'm no statistician, but I think there might be a problem with methodology as it doesn't appear that all factors, particularly those that would skew results, were taken into account.
That all said, it shouldn't be a surprise that certain cities are doing very well and others are, well, failing miserably. Even with its size, the diocese of Los Angeles, which is the largest diocese in the United States, should have a better ratio. But then most Catholics who are concerned with vocations probably already have a few ideas as to why Los Angeles isn't attracting many men to the cloth. Same with Boston, which may never recover from being the epicentre of the sexual-abuse crisis. New York probably will do better once Cardinal Egan is gone, who seems more interested in keeping his head down that following the path carved out by the great John Cardinal O'Connor. And it shouldn't surprise anyone that Spokane and Denver, with the ecclesial leadership those dioceses enjoy, are among the best in the country.