Catholic church facing priest shortage

August 1, 2012 4:59:21 PM PDT
A change is going on inside the church. Fewer people are turning to the priesthood, but the workload and need is not decreasing.

The shortage of priests has the role of the deacon expanding, well beyond just the traditional role during a mass. And this all comes as churches see increased demand for social services.

They bow their head in prayer and the Catholic church could use a few extra ones. A nationwide shortage of priests, including in the Houston area, has the church hierarchy transitioning.

"We've been dealing with a priest shortage for some time now, and because of the shortage, a lot of our deacons are being asked to step up and take larger roles on the parish level," said Deacon Sam Dunning of St. Domincs.

Dunning has been a deacon since 1999, after retiring from career in insurance sales. As the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese deals with a priest shortage, demands on social services continues to climb.

Dunning says each reason for not going into the seminary is personal, but sees American culture's need for immediate gratification playing a role.

"There are a lot of demands on their attention and so I think it takes a very special person. It's a very high calling, not only the call to serve in a ministerial function but also this issue of celibacy and dedicating oneself totally to the church," Dunning said.

Others are finding a greater call to serve in different areas.

"Personally I went through the seminary, but I had a greater calling to becoming a father and in raising a family," said Chris Rubio, director of Parish of Social Ministry Catholic Charities.

So to help with growing needs within the church, a new parish social ministry certificate program is hoping to register more deacons and volunteers.

"Daily we have families coming into Catholic charities and they are asking basic needs, utility assistance. Some of them have a hard time feeding their kids," Rubio said.

So deacons and lay volunteers are being asked to help out by enrolling in the Parish Social Ministry classes that start August 30 at St. Mary's Seminary.


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