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Ordinations: Credit Where Credit is Due

There is a nice article featured today on the Catholic News Service profiling recent priestly ordinations in the Midwest. Our own Archbishop Harry Flynn is prominent in the article, and the news is good. 15 men were ordained to the priesthood last month, the largest number here in more than 40 years. Flynn’s 15 recruits were second only to Chicago’s 16, outdoing many larger urban areas. The total number of new diocesan priests ordained nationwide will only be about 500 this year, about the same as last year.

This is good news indeed, because the statistics are still distressing. For each of the ordinates at the Cathedral last month, three will retire, die, be defrocked or resign somewhere in the United States. Currently, there are more priests over 80 years old than under 30. Though the number of priests across America reached its nadir around 1990 and has begun to climb since, there are still only about 21,000 active diocesan priests to cover about 19,000 active parishes. Since the 1960s, the number of parishioners per priest has more than doubled from about 500 to over 1100. About 3,000 parishes have no pastor at all. And we are only seeing the leading edge of this phenomena as the vast majority of active parish priests are, like the rest of their generation in other professions and vocations, well over 50 and approaching retirement.

The article quotes Flynn telling the newly ordained that they should not "start battles" in their parishes but instead should "try to keep people together.” Such an apparent soft sell generates much wailing and gnashing of teeth among some because it means that the scandals at heterodox parishes will continue indefinitely. Also, such a strategy flies in the face of compelling evidence that the parishes and orders that are most known for orthodoxy and loyalty are the ones attracting talent.

However, Flynn is clearly doing something right. Some of the new priests mentioned in the article thanked him personally and mentioned the efficacy of the archdiocesan Prayer for Vocations and the generally encouraging culture at many parishes. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence abounds that the priests who are coming out of the seminary here are solid and zealous. Flynn seems to have paid special attention to vocations and the state of the seminary. For that, we can all be thankful to our Archbishop.

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