Father’s Column – January 17, 2021

Posted on January 17, 2021 View all news

Laudetur Jesus Christus! Gelobt sei Jesus Christus! Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Praised be Jesus Christ!As we have now closed out the Christmas Season and prepare for Candlemas in the coming weeks, the fact that Christ became incarnate, that is, that He assumed flesh, for our sakes, continues to be the meditation. May we strive to be worthy of the gift that He has offered to us by assuming human nature to redeem us. The Lord has given us a great gift and opportunity. May we not squander it.

I wanted to take the time to bring to your attention today is the parish study that the Archdiocese is currently conducting. I do not have many specifics to offer, but I did want to bring this to your attention. It is no secret that we have fewer priests today than ten, twenty, and thirty years ago. It is no secret that we have fewer Catholics and fewer Catholics going to Mass than ten, twenty, and thirty years ago. As a result, the Archdiocese has contracted with a company to study the Archdiocese’s parishes to discern how to respond to that immediate issue appropriately.

There are currently roughly 230 parishes throughout the Archdiocese, with about 100 pastors between those 230 parishes. There are approximately 150 active diocesan priests throughout the Archdiocese. Of the nearly 100 pastors, 7 of those are religious priests. I would be counted in that number. The Archdiocese has the goal that it is one pastor per parish, but obviously, the numbers do not add up. It is expected over the next four years that another 50 or so priests will retire, many of them are current pastors. The Archdiocese would like to see the number of parish groups reduced from the current 230 to about 75.

This does not mean that church buildings themselves would necessarily close, but that there would be a different operating mode than the current mode throughout the Archdiocese. While the numbers in the seminary are good, they could, of course, be better. The numbers will continue not to replace those retiring for several more cycles. The Archbishop would also like to see more time between the time a man is ordained and become a pastor. I can also attest that more time is needed, having been made a pastor less than one year after my ordination. I did not have enough time to get used to things before I had to juggle teaching and then a parish and then another parish.

I do not know ultimately what the consulting firm will recommend. I have participated in one zoom conference that they offered for the priests to understand the process. It is my understanding that they also intend to involve parishioners at some point. They intend to begin to implement this plan in the second half of next year.

Many of the changes that they are recommending we have already made between Old St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart. A single unified office and staff have certainly helped me, along with a more complementary Mass schedule for Feast Days. Both are some of the recommendations being made. I would hope that with the Oratory and having made a few of the changes already, that both of our parishes will not be greatly affected.

At least for the Archdiocese, we can see there is an issue. On the practical level, just not having enough priests and enough Catholics to justify the amount of Church buildings. On a missionary level, the amount of work needed because there are fewer Catholics, but there is not less people. I wanted to bring this to your attention now and make you aware of this process. This is what I know at the moment, and I promise transparency and to ensure that the interests of the Oratory and our two unique parishes are well represented. Pray for the Church in your daily prayers! Have a blessed week ahead!