Last month, FAITH magazine included a page of statistics about the number of diocesan priests serving in our parishes. As you read, we have fewer diocesan priests than we once did. This month, I want to carry on that conversation and mention some of the other wonderful priests who serve in our parishes. We are blessed with religious order priests and those who come to us from other dioceses who also serve in our parishes. And we receive wonderful service from our senior priests. Now, to be fair, only the diocesan priests are bound to our diocese for their entire ministry. But even there, we have some diocesan priests who serve in special ministries in our diocese and around the world. Plus, I don’t believe there is any diocese in the United States that relies only upon their own diocesan priests.
So, where do we stand in terms of our service as priests to the wonderful people of the Diocese of Lansing? Our diocese is blessed with 58 senior priests. We have 65 pastors assigned (diocesan, religious order and foreign). We have 20 associates assigned (again diocesan, religious order and foreign). We also have 36 priests assigned to other ministries, mostly in our diocese but a few elsewhere. Thus, we have a body of 179 priests serving our diocese. There are also a handful of other priests studying at one of our universities and assisting in ministry temporarily in the diocese and another handful of retired religious priests.
Now, having said all this, it is correct that many of our clergy are at an age where they could retire within the next 10 years. Also, there is no guarantee that the religious order priests or those serving here from other countries could not be called away from our diocese at any time. Still, we are very blessed with the men serving us in our parishes and other diocesan ministries.
It is also true that we need more young men to respond to the call to the priesthood. As Jesus said 2,000 years ago and would repeat today, “The harvest is great but the laborers are few. Pray the Lord to send more laborers into the harvest.” So, my sisters and brothers, pray. But pray that more will hear God’s call, because I am convinced God is calling but we all have difficulty hearing that call. Perhaps, many of you could help this along by encouraging a young man you see at Church to consider the priesthood. I don’t mean here to slight the call to marriage and to the consecrated life, let alone our call to live out our baptism, but this call to the priestly ministry is particularly urgent in our day.
With our very small families, many parents are reluctant to see their sons respond to such a call. Perhaps grandparents have to step in to encourage grandsons to think about this service to God and his Church.
In the meantime, we continue the process of clustering and merging parishes to make the administrative work simpler for the pastors. This also serves to facilitate greater collaboration between parishes and staffs.
One final request: Let your pastor know how much you appreciate the priestly ministry he exercises. We priests are all sinners, but the ministry we share is pretty awesome. Thanks be to God that he does not wait for perfect priests!