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Catholic priest ordinations not keeping pace with retirements

Stephen Huba
| Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, 12:33 p.m.
Jordan Hainsey (center) gets a helping hand from Joe Rielage and other returning seminarians on the orientation team during move-in for seminary students at St. Vincent College in Unity Township on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Jordan Hainsey (center) gets a helping hand from Joe Rielage and other returning seminarians on the orientation team during move-in for seminary students at St. Vincent College in Unity Township on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.

While the number of newly-ordained Catholic priests remains steady, it's not enough to offset priest retirements and deaths, according to a recent report out of Georgetown University.

The study of the 2017 ordination class put the number of new ordinands at 590 — slightly up from 548 in 2016 but down from 595 in 2015.

There are an estimated 26,000 diocesan priests, including retired, in the United States, compared to 34,000 in 1990 and 37,000 in 1970, according to the Georgetown-affiliated Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).

CARA Senior Research Associate Mary Gautier said the annual number of diocesan ordinations, while holding steady over the past 20 years, would need to be two or three times more to keep up with parish demand.

“It's only about a third to a half as many as we would need to compensate for the larger number of priests that are dying and retiring,” she said.

The Diocese of Greensburg has had three retirements this year but no priest ordinations. Bishop Edward C. Malesic ordained a deacon in July.

Anticipated ordinations in the next two years — one in 2018 and one in 2019 — will not be enough to offset the expected 11 retirements over those two years.

There are 79 priests active in the diocese — 59 diocesan, 12 international, eight Benedictine — compared with 150 in 1987, according to diocesan records.

Although it had five ordinations in June, the Diocese of Pittsburgh is on the same trajectory. The number of diocesan priests in active ministry has declined from 338 in 2000 to 222 in 2016. In less than a decade, the diocese is projected to have 100 fewer priests because of pending retirements.

One in four respondents was born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland and Vietnam.

The Greensburg diocese has several programs designed to help young men discern a call to the priesthood, including the Melchizedek Project, St. Andrew Dinners, Quo Vadis Days and Jeremiah Days.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, shuba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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