Below is a sample letter we hope you will adapt, adding your personal opinions and concerns, when you write to your Bishop to express your concern about the priest shortage and its potential effect on Catholic sacramental life.
Dear Bishop ____________:
I am a practicing Catholic (alternates: weekly or daily communicant, woman religious, priest, etc.) in your diocese. I am very concerned about the priest shortage and its effect on our sacramental and communal life as a church.
Recent statistics show that we have only _____priests serving _______ Catholics in ____ parishes in our diocese. I understand that actuarial projections for the future are even worse. How can so few priests minister to so many Catholics, let alone reach out to lapsed Catholics?
I am encouraged by the honesty and valor of the 163 priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese who signed their names to a petition urging the U.S. bishops to make celibacy optional.
I completely support optional priestly celibacy and I believe that the majority of Catholics in this diocese and around the country agree. Both the celibate and the married priesthood are gifts of the Spirit to the church. These gifts should be celebrated and utilized, just as was done in the early church.
Most women ministers in the U.S. (conservatively, an estimated 82% of 65,000 chaplains and lay pastoral ministers) already have qualifications (and more) to be ordained deacons. This constitutes a huge new pool of ordained ministers who could be immediately available to meet the growing sacramental needs of an expanding church.
I urge you to place optional celibacy on the agenda of the next U. S. Bishops’ meeting and ask you to promote discussion of this critical issue at the upcoming International Synod on the Eucharist.
Please encourage the Bishops’ Conference to discuss welcoming married priests back to active ministry as well.
Lastly, I think it is important to publicize any actuarial studies projecting numbers of active priests in our diocese in coming years so we can be included in plans for the future.
How can we remain a sacramental Church if the Mass is not readily available for all Catholics, now and in the future? This is a critical challenge for the life of the Church, one that all of us, clergy and laity, must work together to resolve.
I am deeply concerned about the morale and health of our current priests, who are working beyond human capacity. This is not just. Moreover, seeing how overburdened our priests are will only discourage potential candidates for the priesthood.
P.S. I have utilized great restraint in not even mentioning the call to orders by very competent and courageous women serving the Church right now. At the very least Church leaders should begin a conversation with these faithful women to learn of their experience of call. The Church can only become a model of justice for secular society when it values and treats all of its own equally.
Adapted from a letter recently sent to a Bishop in Green Bay Wisconsin