January 13, 2017

Q: Why don’t we use retired priests in overall numbers of priests available for parish assignments?

A: The diocese uses the number of active priests, meaning those priests that have not yet reached the age of 70 to make personnel assignments. Sometimes this includes priests who decide to stay in active ministry and remain in a parish assignment. If a priest who is currently retired desired to be assigned to an active ministry assignment, he can ask the bishop to formally come out of retirement and receive a canonical assignment.

Q: It has been said that it is not sustainable to use retired priests as part of Ministry 2025 and that they are not needed. Is this true?  

A: No. Retired priests are an important part of Ministry 2025. They have already provided valuable insight into the parish clusters and the overall plan. While we do not use their numbers to determine the number of priests available to serve as pastors, this does not mean that retired priests are not part of the overall plan. In fact, the ministry of our retired priests is a crucial element to the success of Ministry 2025. Our retired priests fill in during weekends in parish clusters, assist with weekday Masses, hear confessions, assist in nursing homes and hospitals, and are involved in parish ministry in countless ways.

As part of the parish cluster phase of pastoral planning, retired priests can make themselves available to the cluster and become a vital part of ministry. This might include taking part in the celebration of Masses and other sacramental ministry. This would be decided at the local level in conjunction with the pastor and parish leadership as part of the overall cluster plan for Ministry 2025.

Q: Why can’t we just celebrate more than three Masses per weekend and keep many of these parishes that are set to go to oratory status open?

A: Three weekend Masses actually equals six key sacramental obligations for most pastors on a weekend. Confessions, a wedding, and a funeral are typical. In addition, as pastors have responsibility for more than one parish, there is a need for both travel time, and more importantly, time with parishioners after liturgies.

One of the goals of Ministry 2025 is to increase Sunday Mass attendance. This will include making sure the Masses we celebrate are done with care and proper planning, including preaching, Sacred Music and other important liturgical elements that inspire people to come to Mass. By limiting the number of Masses it allows the priest to use his energy to celebrate those Masses with energy.

Limiting the number of Masses to three will help facilitate the sharing of resources and create more opportunities in those places that are currently too small to have liturgical ministers, music, or other essential liturgical elements. The planning process has identified the fact that we have too many Masses, in too many places, too sparsely attended. If we do not set some parameters on the number of Masses a priest can celebrate it will be difficult to make the necessary changes to our parish clusters.

Q: Why not allow deacons, religious or lay persons to become parish administrators and have retired priests serve as sacramental ministers?

A: This option has been suggested in the past at the presbyteral council and in other instances. The bishop desires to use the model of priests as pastors of parishes rather than lay administrators. This does not mean that parishes cannot make use of lay leadership. In fact, the bishop encourages pastors to make use of business managers and other lay support staff to ease the administrative burden on priests. Pastors of parishes are free to solicit sacramental help from retired priests who desire to be of service to the Church.

Q: Why not create a Mass schedule that rotates between various parishes that result in each parish having Mass twice a month?

A: Having a rotating Mass schedule can be confusing to the people. It is desirable to have a stable Mass schedule across the parish cluster so that people are used to Mass times and do not have to constantly navigate a changing schedule. After consulting with priests and parishes that have tried this the overwhelming experience is while trying to please everyone with a schedule that is fair it ends up making everyone unhappy.