Nearly Half US Parishes Share Pastor Print
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 24 April 2008 08:48
Per the Emerging Models of Pastoral Ministry Conference that was held last weekend (and which we were strongly urged to attend but just couldn't manage). From Catholic New Service:

Reported the results of a four-year study conducted in response to ongoing shifts in the Catholic Church. The study, commissioned in 2002 by a coalition of six Catholic national organizations, received a $2 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to conduct the study and to assess its findings.

One finding:

With about 28,000 diocesan priests, 70 percent of whom are older than 55, the United States is moving toward clusters of parishes under the care of a single pastor, she said. Indeed, nearly half of all U.S. parishes already share their pastor with another parish or mission.

I've never seen a national figure like this but I'm not surprised.

A number of the dioceses we've worked with are busy cutting the number of parishes in half and twinning or merging communities.

What was announced in the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey three weeks ago (38 merged parishes, three parish clusters (involving six parishes) and 22 stand-alone parishes. The reconfiguration, when fully implemented, will bring about an overall reduction in the number of parishes from the current 124 parishes to 66 parishes.) is already present reality or the immediate future for many other dioceses.

The number of priests in the US will continue to decline until about 2015 when we should bottom out and stabilize.

But bringing the proportion of priest to lay Catholic back up to the pre-Vatican II level seems most unlikely. Yes, a higher proportion of Gen X/Millenial generation are becoming priests and religious - but since only 17 - 19% of those generations attend Mass every week (from which the majority of ecclesial vocations come), our overall numbers are not going to go up much.

This is a totally different model of priestly ministry than our practice and theology has assumed and one of the unintended effects of the fact that our Catholic population continues to grow.

What on earth would we do if the 75% of US Catholics who don't attend Mass every Sunday actually showed up? What if all the adults received at Easter were still there a year later?

Here's the deal. Our individual vocations are a mystery hidden in Christ and revealed through an extended relationship with Christ. Intentional discipleship is the source of all vocations.

If we create a culture of discipleship in our parishes today, we will change our tomorrow.