Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Last week, the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced the appointment of four "Directors of Pastoral Life" for parishes - 1 deacon, 2 sisters and 1 married lay woman, along with the appointment of three priest pastors. The appointment of the lay woman, in particular, generated much discussion, particularly among bloggers and others who sniped that the Archdiocese has 449 priests and 162 parishes - how can you say this move was necessary?

Today, the Communications director of the Archdiocese generously sent me a copy of the letter they're sending out to inquiries on this score. It reads in part:

Having received a number of very similar emails, each mentioning a total of 449 priests in the Archdiocese of Baltimore available for 162 parishes, it seems that incorrect – or, at best, misleading – information concerning our situation has been posted on the Internet.

We wish that this were true. Obviously, if we had 449 priests available for parish service, staffing would not be a challenge. In reality, however, we project that 174 priests will be available in two years for active service in our 162 parishes – as Pastors, Associate Pastors, and Senior Priests nearing retirement.

It is true that, in addition to our archdiocesan priests, there are a number of religious priests residing here – in fact, religious priests account for more than half of the 449 total cited above. However, the vast majority of these men are not available for parish service, working at universities, seminaries, high schools and other institutions run by their orders. As in other dioceses, we have religious communities assuming responsibility for as many parishes as they are willing and able to accept. But they, too, are facing declining numbers, and we have had religious communities pull out of several parishes in recent years.

.....This week’s announcement is one step in fulfilling our promise that every parish is well cared for with effective spiritual and administrative leaders – ensuring that the worship experience on Sunday is all it can be, with a priest who is a presence in each parish. It is important to note that parishes with Pastoral Life Directors also will be assigned sacramental ministers – priests who will be responsible for their sacramental life and worship. Additionally, each parish has a priest who is canonical Pastor.

It remains our goal to have priest as full-time Pastor in each parish. We have stepped up our vocation recruiting effort, and urge you to pray for vocations – as well as to ask family members to consider whether they are being called to the priesthood. However, Pastoral Life Directors have served well in leading 4 parishes here – as well as in approximately 600 parishes across the nation

Hope that clears things up and calms things down.

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