a call for national dialogue on
the future of priestly ministry
Fewer Priests, Fewer Parishes…What Can We Do”
Dialogue about the priest shortage and its threat to our sacramental life is needed now more than ever.
According to Vatican statistics, nearly half of the world’s parishes do not have a resident priest. There are only 405,000 priests to serve over a billion Catholics. In 1970 there were 419.728 priests to serve 653..5 million Catholics.
And the situation is getting worse. Actuarial studies in several American dioceses reveal a desperate situation within 25 years. For example, a diocese with 235 parishes and nearly a million Catholics now will have less than 80 active priests in 25 years, assuming 4 ordinations per year, which is above the average for recent years.
All of us who love our Church agree whole-heartedly with Pope John Paul II’s recent words that our goal must be a “personal relationship with the sacrament of the Eucharist, the real presence of Jesus Christ.” (11/02)
Not only do we need and grow spiritually from participating fully in the mass, we, as Catholics, are assured by Canon law (c. 213) that we have a right to Eucharist.
Yet, if we do not become involved in shaping the future of our church, we will awaken one day to find a priestless future shaping it instead. The priest shortage is reshaping Catholic life NOW – many parishes have been merged or closed. Many others have only remained open due to the hard work of lay pastoral ministers. And they must make do with communion services because there is no priest to say mass.
There are many things that we, as committed Catholics, can do right now:
Learn about the problem:
- Read and study the materials in this packet
- Discover the magnitude of the priest shortage in your diocese by clicking on Priest Shortage USA 1976-2001 at www.futurechurch.org for Official Catholic Directory statistics
- Read some of the excellent books and articles in the bibliography
Educate your community about the problems:
- Start an education, prayer and study group in your parish or small faith community about the priest shortage and its effect on our sacramental life.
- Join other churches around the country in organizing a special observation of the Feast of Corpus Christi, sharing a meal and praying together
The Future of Priestly Ministry dialogue packet contains everything you need to begin this important conversation in your parish or small faith community. Please pay special to the Tips for Local Dialogue Organizers sheet. It gives valuable help for how to begin (and continue!) the conversation in your diocese.
We are God’s people, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, living stones (1 Peter). We are the church. We are charged by Scripture and by baptism with responsibility for our church. This is the vision that guides the members of FutureChurch and Call to Action.
As in any family, we need to talk about our differences, our needs, our hopes and our dreams.
We hope that the materials in this packet will lead us, and our Bishops, into a new spirit of listening
Both to the signs of the our times and to the voice of “Divine Providence (who) is leading us to a new order of human relations…” (Pope John XXIII).
We are so glad that you have decided to take your part, given by your baptism, in helping to share the future of our church.
Ps. Sr. Chris Schenk of FutureChurch is happy to assist you with advice, sharing the experiences of others who have started educational programs and Corpus Christi events in their local areas. She is also willing to come to your parish to speak on the future of priestly ministry or on a variety of other topics (the historical Jesus, women leaders in the early church, Jesus and Women, etc. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.