There are various reasons as to why this might be - the numbers always fluctuate. One interesting stat to keep track of is that of encouragement and discouragement from following a vocation to the priesthood. The report tallies these factors as well. Of those who responded, 78% (or 264) said their parish priest encouraged them, 47% (159) said a friend, 42% (142) said their mother, 41% (139) said a fellow parishioner, 33% (112) said their dad, and 29% (98) said a teacher or catechist encouraged them to consider the priesthood.
On the flip-side, they also reported on those who discouraged these men to enter the priesthood. That is also to be expected, but what surprised me was where that discouragement came from. Sixty-three percent (214) were discouraged by a friend or classmate. This is probably not too shocking, given the level of understanding of that sort of commitment and religious feeling in general among the young population in general. However, the second highest level of discouragement came from parents or family members - 50% (169). There are various reasons for this sort of response from parents. I have talked about this a little before. But parents might not just discourage for selfish reasons. They could also be genuinely concerned for their son's happiness in a vocation that so often comes under fire like ours does. The report doesn't tell of the level of that discouragement. The best way for us to counter that sort of reaction is, as priests, to joyfully and visibly live out our vocations.
The last stat that struck me particularly hard was that 15% reported being discouraged a priest. That is 51 guys hearing that they should not become what these discouragers are. 51 potential priests - who actually made it through had discouraging words given to them from another priest when they said they felt called to the priesthood. This stat makes me wonder how many good potential candidates actually listened to that "advice."
God's faithful are hungry and looking for more priests. It does not do us any good if those living that vocation are so soured in their ministry that they cannot endorse it for others. The answer? Pray for these priests; pray for those candidates; and pray for our young people, whom God is calling, to have the courage and the support to follow that call.