A review of Roman Catholic media in the past three months provides
a vivid photograph of how various "local churches" are
responding to the priest shortage:
- A report for the Council of Priests in the Portsmouth, England
diocese reveals it will lose 25% of its priests in the next five
years, and 40% in the next ten. Vicky Cosstick who compiled the
report found "a fair degree of anger and cynicism among
priests" and noted "Many priests are aware that they
will be the last in their parishes." One priest inteviewed
said "Celibacy in total isolation is dangerous and has done
colossal damage." (The Tablet, November 17, 2001)
- Colorado Springs Bishop Richard C. Hanifen recently said that
one of the major consequences of the priest shortage may be that
some parishes go without the Mass "on a given Sunday."
In this instance, the parishes should conduct liturgies of the
Word led by deacons or trained laity and include a Communion
Service. Hanifen also said that priests should not be expected
to celebrate Mass more than three times on Sunday and should
limit their time at other liturgical celebrations such as weddings.
He expects that parishioners will worship in their own church
on Sundays, even when Mass is not available. There are 23 active
diocesan priests and 22 religious priests for the 32 parishes
in the Colorado Springs diocese. (National Catholic Reporter
- In Oregon some Catholic parishes already have lay or deacon
pastoral administrators who handle day-to-day operations in priestless
parishes. Some Catholics in eastern Oregon have Sunday Communion
services instead of the Mass because there are not enough priests.
The Western states are particularly hard hit because of a 261%
increase in Catholics in the past 40 years.
We remember with gratitude the courageous life and witness of
Bishop Raymond Lucker who died September 19 in St. Paul Minnesota.
Bishop Lucker was head of the New Ulm diocese from 1976 to 2000
when he requested early retirement after being diagnosed with melanoma.
He held doctoral degrees in theology and education and was a leader
in catechetical renewal. The author of five books, he was also
a well known social justice advocate who worked to promote women
in church and society. A special friend of lay ministers, he pioneered
the practice of appointing lay administrators to lead parishes
and then upheld their authority in the occasional dispute arising
when "circuit riding" priests sought to override parish
liturgical customs. A gracious man of gentle wit and deep wisdom,
he will be sorely missed.