….Like it or not, full-service parishes will soon perish.
All 231 parishes in the Cleveland Diocese will soon change. The diocese will organize all parishes into groups that will share resources and priests.
I can see the bishop flipping through a thesaurus to find the right word to describe what he will do with the churches to combat the dwindling priesthood.
Hmm. Let’s see . . . Reorganize. Reconfigure. Reconstitute. Merge. Consolidate. Collaborate. Cluster.
Cluster sounds much better than Share A Priest, which is what clustering amounts to. It also sounds better than closing churches, which is bound to happen next.
We should’ve seen it coming. The trend has swept the nation as fewer men join the priesthood and more priests die and retire.
I still remember the letter from the bishop more than a decade ago addressing the shortage of priests. Our pastor read the letter and said we were to have meetings and talk about how to get along with fewer priests.
When he told us we were not allowed, however, to discuss the issue of married priests or women priests, you could feel a breeze as heads shook collectively in disgust.
We all knew there was a solution. Actually two of them:
End of shortage.
Unfortunately, every pope is deaf in one ear and can’t hear out of the other when it comes to ordaining women and married clergy.
Ryan Duns, SJ gives a fair critique of this article by Regina Brett of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
What always gets me about articles like this where the answer to any priesthood shortage is always married priests and priestesses. They never ask the obvious questions and seem to see this problem without addressing the past. Just exactly how did the Catholic Church continue to grow and be around for 2,000 years without priestesses and married priests in the Latin Rite? They never notice that this is a modern problem. There were no stories about a vocations crunch forty years ago, but now there are more and more of them. They also never want to analyze just what it is in our culture that is suppressing people from responding to their vocations to the priesthood or the religious life. In fact I can’t recall one of these articles ever talking about the shrinking number of nuns and brothers in the religious life. If is always focused just on priests and for them the lack of access to the sacraments. The contemplative orders that are holding up the Church in prayer – and their declining numbers does not seem to be a problem for them. In fact prayer just never seems part of their vocations strategy. Praying to the Lord of the Harvest to send workers in the vineyard to them is an outdated strategy regardless of the fact that this was the vocations strategy in the Gospels.
There are surely many factors in the suppression of the response to vocations. A society that focuses on pleasure and extreme selfishness is not exactly one that encourages a total giving of yourself to others and to the greater glory of the Church. Smaller families also contribute to the problem. Just how many of the great saints were the first or second born? Somehow we think we can both cut the number of children and at the same time provide the numbers of people in the priesthood in religious life as before. Isn’t it less likely that Catholic parents of a small family are going to encourage vocations in the first place? Most of us parents have all kinds of plans for the successful career of our children and the idea of losing access to them in a convent or to the busy life of a priest doesn’t fit most of our agendas. Few of us are like Louis Martin , father of St. Terese, who are willing to lose all their children to religious life. Relativism and modernism are certainly factors involved in this, yet their answers always seem to involve more relativism and modernism. Fighting viruses with dead viruses works in some cases, but is there a dead strain of relativism to fight relativism with? The vaccine to relativism is of course proclaiming and living the truth in the first place and this is a vaccine we can all produce.
While there are certainly factors that have lead to this decrease this does not mean we throw our hands in the air and just complain about these root causes. Our job is to pray for those who have vocations for the priesthood and religious life to respond with generosity and faithfulness. To encourage those we meet to discern whether they have these specific vocations. To fully live the Gospel and to not become a stumbling block to those who have been called.
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP is a great preacher on vocations and recently on this topic preached.
The witness of the lay faithful is needed now more than ever! If the faith is to center our vocation efforts, then we need daily witnesses, daily teachers, and the everyday faithful. That’s you, folks! Ask one young man this week to consider the priesthood. Just one. Tell him he is needed. With Christ on board, put your nets into deep water and pull for all you’re worth. And do not be afraid! They are waiting to hear your word of encouragement, your invitation. Trust me! They are waiting to be caught. Fish long and hard and fish faithfully. But whatever you do: FISH!