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May 17, 1991     The Message
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May 17, 1991

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The Message m for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Priest shortage May 17, 1991 Report urges fuller discussion of ordination of women, married men By JERRY FILTEAU' Catholic News Service poss'iblesolutions to the priest shortage. It said the question of whether married men can be ordained is already "settled" by the fact that more than 50 former non-Catholic minis- ters who converted to Catholicism have been or- dained as married Catholic priests within the past decade. Based in part on a survey of diocesan priests' councils across the country, the report said many priests value celibacy for themselves, but "there was very little support expressed" for the rule of celibacy for all priests. It called the question of or- daining women "far more problematic" theologically, but it said that "almost all" priests felt both ordination questions "need to be fully discussed." Priests feel "frustrated" that most bishops treat such top- ics as not open to discussion, it said. Another report approved at the meeting described the im- portance of diocesan priests' councils in the life of the local church and suggested a variety of ways to make such councils more effective. Addressing the convention theme, "Priesthood: The Prophetic Call to Ministry," several speakers stressed that a priest as prophet is speak- ing God's word, not his own -- and to do so effectively he must be listening to the word of God. ing, he said. He said he was not telling priests to "rant and rave from the pulpit," but through their ings of priests' councils. The four he cited were the growing priest shortage and its impact in terms of ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) -- The growing U.S. priest shortage and how priests minister as prophets were key issues facing the National Federation of Priests' Coun- cils as about 250 members of the 23- year-old federation met in Orlando April 29-May 3. A report overwhelmingly approved by the gathering warned that the eucharistic tradition "central to Catholic life" is threatened by the lack of enough priests to assure weekly Mass in U.S. parishes. The full role of the priest as pastoral leader of the parish community is also threat- ened, the report said, as more and more priests become so heavily burdened with essen- tial sacramental ministry that they have little time for other pastoral activities. "Circuit rider" priests who have to serve several parishes as sacramental ministers fear losing touch with their peo- ple because they cannot get to know each community they serve, it said. It said these fears and con- cerns are contributing to morale problems among U.S. priests. The report urged fuller dis- cussion of ordaining married men and ordaining women as celebration is open to the 37, is the oldest of six children. He has four the- Seminary. I I I I II Please patronize Message advertisers! I James Jett & Associates, Inc. life * health o home = IRA retirement planning 473--4005 514 S. Green River Rd. Evansville r IN 47715 = WDubois County Bank YOUR FIVE STAR SERVICE BANK i "Funeral Pre-Planning Since 1940" Miller & Miller 424-9274 COMPLETE INSURANCE SERVICE Autol Homel Fire & Lifet Your Personal Service Agent James L. Will Ins. Agency Inc. 1925 W. Franklin Street 425-3187 Bishop Kenneth J. Untener of Saginaw, Mich., told the priests that studying the Lec- tionary, the book of daily Scripture readings for Mass, is "one of the best ways" for a priest or parish leader to hear God's call to be a prophetic voice. Bishop Untener praised the U.S. bishops for their prophetic stance on social justice issues. But he said it bothers him that the bishops seem "reluctant" to speak out prophetically "when it comes to matters within the church." Jesuit theologian Father Waiter J. Burghardt said priests should imitate the Old Testament prophets' "incredi- ble intimacy with the Lord" and their "passionate con- cern" for their people. Like the prophets of old, he said, priests should be so "ex- traordinarily sensitive to evil, to injustice," that it "grabs our guts." Priests should "feel fierce- ly" and let their emotion come through in their preach- words, gestures and actions to let people sense "that we love this sinful, struggling community . . . that we ago- nize over our own sinfulness . . . that we weep with the refugees whose tears water the ways of Kurdistan." Father Joseph C. Brink, who wa ending his three- year term as president of the federation, described "social reform" as part of a prophet's message but said the real message of a prophet is " far more radical ... to change people's hearts." "No aspect of the priest- hood is more closely related to our spirituality than that of the priest as prophet," Father Brink said, because "as true prophets we have to make sure we're preaching (God's) word, not our own." In his presidential address Father Brink urged priests' councils around the country to deal more fully with four issues which he said are often on priests' minds and a source of morale problems, but rarely discussed in meet- loss of regular Eucharist in a growing number of parishes; priests' relations with their bishops and with one another; Catholic schools; and bureaucracy in diocesan offices. On the loss of the Eu- charist in priestless parish- es, he asked whether the people's right to the Eu- charist is "more important . . . than the discipline of celibacy." On bishop-priest rela- J tions he suggested that one key issue to be addressed is whether the priests' council, "the primary group of consultants in a diocese," should be in- volved in the selection of bishops. Father Brink, a priest of the Diocese of Covington,: Ky., is to end his term as president of the federation in July. Father Thomas Mc- Carthy of the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, presi- dent-elect for the past year, is to succeed him. Average age of priests in diocese is 57, one third are 65 or older By PAUL R. LEINGANG Message Editor "The process becomes ever more difficult," said Father Patrick Foster, talking about how priests are assigned. Fa- ther Foster, pastor of Holy Spirit Church, Evansville, is chairman of the priests' per- sonnel board. The personnel board is a consultative body c;f priests elected by their peers who as- sist the bishop in making clergy personnel assignments. A major reason for the growing difficulty, according to Father Foster, is the fact that priests are growing older, and the work they are able to do is limited. In the Diocese of Evansville, the average age of a diocesan priest is 57, a(:- cording to computations based on information con- tained in the 1991 diocesan yearbook. Even though about one third of the diocesan priests will be 65 or older by the end of this year, many priests continue their active service beyond retirement age. By the end of the year, the average age of priests under retirement age will be 49, and only 11 priests will be under the age of 40. The Diocese of Evansville has 73 parishes- counting the worshipping community of St. Nicholas at Santa Claus, which is to be made a parish in December. Only eight parishes today have more than one priest -- and that in- cludes the parishes staffed by Benedictine priests. About a third of the parish- es had associate pastors in the 1960s, according to Fa- ther Foster, and in the 1970s, associate pastors in the dio- cese still numbered "in the twenties." As recently as 1981, an as- sociate had been assigned to St. Wendel Church in St. Wendel, and Holy Spirit Church in Evansville had an associate until 1984. As the number of priests continues to decrease, the loss of associate pastors is one way in which the slack is taken up, according to Father Foster. The number of priests who teach has also been cut severely. A big problem today, said Father Foster, is that older and fewer priests are still try- ing to provide the same ser- vices as were provided by larger numbers of younger priests -- and the result is frequently burnout and job stress. "We can't stretch the rub" ber band any tauter," said Fa- ther Foster. He said the situa" tion has gone far beyond the inability of doing what used ,to be, done 15 or 30 years ago. We re getting to the point where priests can't do what they do today," he said. "It's a time bomb," he corn cluded. Father Foster is of the opiW ion that many people in the diocese are not fully aware of how real the priest shortage is. He believes that people will not understand the situa" tion "until the day when one city parish will be left priest" less." "Priestless parishes" cur- rently in the diocese are Holy Name Church, Bloomfield, where Sister Diane Fischer, O.S.B., is the pastoral admin" istrat0r; All Saints Church, , Cannelburg, and St. Mary Church Daviess County, where Deacon Donald Lahay is the pastoral administrator, and the worshipping commu- nity of Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, where Sister Mary Ter- ence Knapp, O.S.B., is the pastoral administrator. An" other seven parishes are at- tended by priests who do not reside at the parish. Covenant House leader urges renewed concern By TRACY EARLY Catholic News Service NEW YORK (CNS) -- Daughters of Charity Sister Mary Rose McGeady, presi- dent of the Covenant House ministry to homeless and runaway youngsters, said the church should "ring the bell long and hard" to awaken so- ciety to the growing number of its "'throwaway children" and "'disconnected kids." "'The church needs to make support for family life a prior- ity on its advocacy agenda and on its own internal agen- da as well," she said, adding that society' had decreased its investment in youth over the past 30 years. "'In the days of my youth -- I admit that was a long time ago -- rare was the parish without a youth pro- gram, usually a combination of religious, social and athlet- ic events, and usually, too, under the direction of its youngest priest," she said. Now, she said, fewer parishes sponsor such pro- grams, and young people "'hang out" in shopping malls and "'bright-light zones."