The Catholic Church is in the middle of a priest shortage so dire, it's changing the face of faith in many parts of the country. It's a big problem in Kansas City, and a solution is years away.
Over the last 40 years, the number of priests in the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese has decreased by 34 percent. Meanwhile, the Catholic population keeps growing. For the last two decades, the church has just made due, stretching to make an old system work. But it's getting to a critical point, and help is needed fast.
12 percent of Kansas City's population is Catholic. For them, the church acts both as an social outlet and an individual sanctuary. But for decades, like a rock that has been worn away, as the leaders of the church got older, fewer men have come forward to take the reigns.
"We are feeling the pinch because the average age is increasing," Keith Jiron, vocations director for the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, said.
To meet the immediate need in the Metro, fewer priests are retiring. At an age when many hoped to take a step back, they are stepping up to help ease the strain.
"The priests are spread thinner and their faithfully doing their duties and their just waiting for, they're hoping that helps on the way," Jiron said.
The problem is especially severe in the largest and smallest congregations. His parishioners in Clinton, Missouri said Father Phil Egan's arrival two years ago was the shot of energy and the spirit the small community needed...
...But for Father Roach and others like him, there is light at the end of parish's tunnel. On the hollowed grounds of Conception Seminary in Conception, Missouri, lies the hope for the future of Kansas City's Catholic community. The 24 men in the diocese seminary class are the rescuers, making up the largest class of future priests the diocese has seen in 40 years. Ben Knieb is from the St. Joseph area and said he has seen the increased numbers first-hand.
"When I first entered seminary, we had 10 seminarians, and in a matter of only a few years we more than doubled," Knieb said.
Like Knieb, Adam Haake is also a senior at Conception Seminary. He said the shortage of priests is not a case of men not being called to the priesthood. They said it's a problem of men not listening.
"There are guys out there who are feeling called and what's going on in our culture is, it's so loud, we're being so bombarded here and there that they're not answering it and what it is is their not hearing it," Haake said.
If the size of the seminary class is any indication, more and more young men are listening. Diocesan officials said there's no specific recruitment strategy, just God filling a need. Their class is a point of pride for the diocese, not only for its numbers, but also for its attitude.
"I want to be a priest," Haake said. "It's about bringing Christ to others and people to Christ."
Thursday, February 28, 2008
...shortage of priests in Kansas City. From FoxNews