Archdiocese tackles issues involved in ministering to multiple parishes
CINCINNATI, OH (The Catholic Telegraph) - In a trend occurring in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and in dioceses across the country, more and more priests are serving two or more parishes as the number of active priests declines.
SHARED RESPONSIBILITY - Because the administration of multiple parishes places more burdens on the priest, parish staff members need to become more available to the people, says Sister Katarina Schuth. (Courtesy)
How to effectively minister in this new environment was the topic of two presentations in the archdiocese by Franciscan Sister Katarina Schuth April 17. A session for priests was held at Bergamo Center in Dayton and a second event, primarily for parish staff and parish council members, was held at St. Helen Parish in Dayton.
For staff members, the situation means they need to be more available to parishioners and share an increasing workload, Sister Katarina said. They also need to recognize ways in which they could support the parish priest.
“That’s the message for professional staff,” she said. “We looked at the extra work that this (phenomenon causes) for priests.”
A growing trend
The numbers are very real. As of 2005, 44 percent of the parishes in the United States are served be a priest with multiple parishes. In Ohio, 15 percent of the priests serve multiple parishes, and 20 percent of all the priests in the country serve two or more parishes, said Sister Katarina. In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 41 priests now serve as pastors of at least two parishes.
“My main message was to encourage (priests) in their work,” Sister Katarina said. “Thousands of priests are doing work in this way. There are ways in which they can be more effective.”
They should avoid duplication, combine parish councils, and to focus on priestly ministry, she said. To give life to a parish priests need to provide excellent homilies and liturgies, be there to form community, collaborate and facilitate quality ministry.
“It’s really important that they do those things well,” said Sister Katarina. “You can’t do everything, but you can be interested in everything.’’
Sister Katarina, who holds the Endowed Chair for the Social Scientific Study of Religion at the St. Paul Seminary School of Religion at the University of St. Thomas, surveyed priests across the country in researching her book, Priestly Ministry in Multiple Parishes. It was published in 2006.
Priests in this situation, she said, should take care of themselves physically, delegate appropriate responsibilities and regulate expectations of parishioners. Sister Katarina’s research showed that just over a quarter of the priests who serve multiple parishes take time off no more than once a month, if at all.
In workshops across the country, she is helping to network and share ideas among priests who serve multiple parishes.
Opportunity for a new direction
Father Thomas DiFolco, pastor at St. Agnes Parish in Cincinnati and St. Martin de Porres Parish in Lincoln Heights, said Sister Katarina brings a national perspective on the topic.
“We in the archdiocese are not unique or alone in this,” said Father DiFolco, who is also the director of the archdiocesan Priestly Formation Office. “Some dioceses have been doing this longer or more extensively and we could learn from their experience. Many men have learned to flourish in this environment. It doesn’t have to be a negative.”
The upside is that there is extensive opportunity for all people to be more involved in church ministry and everyone to learn of the great gifts we each have to offer, Father DiFolco said.
“I’m hoping priests will see this (leadership) in ministry to lead the people in a new direction without killing themselves,” Father DiFolco said. “Parishioners know that they can’t depend on me for everything.”
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This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of The Catholic Telegraph(www.catholiccincinnati.org), official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Cincincinnati, Ohio.
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