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FutureChurch Calls on U.S. Bishops to Stem the Priest Shortage and Preserve the Eucharist
Release date: 
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

For Immediate Release                                                          

Contact:  Deborah Rose-Milavec, 513.673.1401, debrose@futurechurch.org

                 Mary Louise Hartman, 609.915.2258, mlhls@gmail.com

FutureChurch Calls on the U.S. Bishops to Stem the Priest Shortage and Save the Eucharist

Cleveland, Ohio – July 15, 2015    In four short years half of active diocesan priests in the U.S. –- nearly 9000 of 17,900  -- are expected to retire.   New vocations will not come close to replacing those retiring (cara.georgetown.edu).  Fewer and fewer priests will be called to serve greater and greater numbers of Catholics thus creating an unprecedented strain on the community, resulting in greater numbers of parish mergers and closings and reduced access to the sacraments.

“This is scandalous,” said Mary Louise Hartman, FutureChurch board member and long time advocate for Vatican II reforms.  “Bishops have chosen to shutter parishes rather than tend to the needs of Catholics.  They have chosen to place greater and greater burdens on priests rather than opening ordination.  Their decisions strike at the very heart of Catholicism -- access to the Eucharist.  FutureChurch calls our bishops to act now for the good of the church."

Since 2000, the number of Catholics in the United States has grown by 6.7 million.   Yet, the number of parishes has decreased by 1,750.  Twenty percent of those parishes are without a resident priest while the number of parishes entrusted to a deacon, religious sister, brother or lay person has decliined (cara.georgetown.edu), a trend that seems to contravene efforts to maintain parish communities.

Instead, thousands of Catholics have felt the pain of losing their parish home – the communities where generations were baptized, married and buried and where they built a common life reaching out to those in need.   Others have faced mergers, shared priests, or entered into other new configurations for parish life.   Many adjust and even thrive, but some parishioners walk away and never return.

The growing shortage has created unrealistic demands on active priests as well.  Many are stretched thin serving more than one parish. Those who have retired are being asked to pick up more responsibility to fill the gaps.  Their dedication is a gift, but these expectations are neither just nor sustainable as a solution.

The situation promises to get worse.

“In four more years, this tragic situation will become a full blown calamity,” said Deborah Rose-Milavec, Executive Director of FutureChurch.  “The statistical evidence is a blunt reminder that we are facing a dire future.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.”

For 25 years, FutureChurch has been educating Catholics about the priest shortage and its impact on Eucharistic life.  FutureChurch calls for restoring the early Church’s practice of ordaining both married and celibate priests, ordaining female and male deacons, as well as inviting the return of priests who left the active ministry to marry.

“Pope Francis has called upon bishops’ conferences to present him with concrete strategies for averting this crisis,” said Rose-Milavec.  “New vocations simply cannot meet our future needs.  FutureChurch urges the U.S. Bishops to answer Francis’s call and, to open ordination rather than closing parishes.”

Find the full statement at https://futurechurch.org/looming-priest-shortage-calamity-at-our-doorstep.

 

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About FutureChurch: Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, FutureChurch is a national coalition of parish centered Catholics that seeks changes that will provide all Roman Catholics the opportunity to participate fully in Church life and leadership. FutureChurch strives to educate fellow Catholics about the seriousness of the priest shortage, the centrality of the Eucharist (the Mass), and the systemic inequality of women in the Catholic Church. FutureChurch is a nonprofit organization that makes presentations throughout the country, distributes education, advocacy and prayer resources and recruits activists who work on behalf of its mission.