By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
In October and November 2008, clergy across the Archdiocese convened in each of the six vicariates to study the forecast for the need for priests in parish ministry through 2020 as they examined demographic projections of clergy and registered Catholics.
Cardinal Justin Rigali called for the meetings to gain their insights as the Archdiocese reflects on the challenges and opportunities of a growing Catholic population.
One year later, the studying continues as a number of committees have been formed to further assess the cause, including a standing committee on parish ministry and planning, and the following subcommittees: communication, parish staffing and pastoral planning, as well as a vocation advisory board.
In 2020, the number of registered Catholics in the Philadelphia Archdiocese is projected to be 1.3 million, an increase from the present 1.2 million, according to the archdiocesan Office for Research and Planning.
Meanwhile, that same year, the Archdiocese could have three quarters the number of active diocesan priests serving Catholics today.
The current number of diocesan priests in active ministry is 447 and in parish ministry, 347. In 2020, the number in active ministry could be 346 and in parish ministry, 267.
Last spring, Cardinal Rigali appointed an ad hoc committee of seven priests to review the contents of a report compiled from last year’s vicariate meetings regarding the forecast for the need for priests in parish ministry through 2020.
Msgr. Joseph T. Marino, vicar for Chester County and pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Strafford, was appointed the ad hoc committee chair.
The committee’s directive was to review the report in more detail, then, at the archdiocesan Council of Priests meeting in June, make recommendations regarding the next steps in the planning process.
At that meeting, the Council of Priests approved the establishment of the three aforementioned subcommittees and vocation advisory board, each of which is chaired by a priest.
Msgr. Marino is pleased with the progress of the planning and of the committee members themselves whom he described as hard-working. “Everybody is committed to taking this fundamental information and beginning to use it for future planning for the Archdiocese so that we can sustain and maintain vital parishes for the benefit of the people and for the benefit of the evangelization mission of the Church,” he said.
A report on the forecast for the need for priests in parish ministry through 2020 is being prepared by the communications subcommittee. It is anticipated that the report, which will include a Power Point or video presentation, will be shared with parishioners of the Archdiocese by their respective pastors next spring.
Since 1990, the total number of parishes, including those staffed by religious orders in the Archdiocese, has decreased from 302 to 267, a net reduction of 35 parishes, or an average of two parishes per year.
The total number of priests needed to maintain the one priest per 3,000 parishioner ratio presently has a deficit of 26 priests. In 2010, it is projected to be 47 priests short; in 2015, 99 priests short. By 2020 it is expected to be 140 priests short.
If no changes are made between 2020 and 2025, the number of diocesan priests projected to be available for parish ministry dips below the number of parishes – 241 – currently staffed by diocesan priests. By 2025, there are expected to be 227 diocesan priests in parish ministry.
Currently, 62 parishes staffed by diocesan priests have fewer than 2,000 parishioners. This group includes 20 parishes that are twinned, meaning one pastor serves two parishes, but each parish retains its own parochial and canonical identity.
Robert J. Miller, director of the Office for Research and Planning, who with the Office for Clergy facilitated the planning meetings last year, has said “a projection is not a prediction, and it certainly shouldn’t be a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Standing Committee Chairperson:
Msgr. Joseph T. Marino,
Vicar for Chester County
Communication Subcommittee Chairperson:
Msgr. Arthur E. Rodgers,
Vicar for Montgomery County
Parish Staffing Subcommittee Chairperson:
Msgr. Thomas M. Mullin,
Pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish, Uwchlan, Chester County
Pastoral Planning Subcommittee Chairperson: Father Joseph L. Logrip,
Vicar for Philadelphia-North