The story may be different on the coasts. But in Missouri and Kansas, it seems, vocations are going strong:
Seven men were ordained this year in the diocese, the largest single-year number in the last 30, said a somewhat mystified but definitely pleased Monsignor Bradley Offutt, diocesan vicar general. Also, 10 men are beginning studying for the priesthood this year.
“Here we are in a period of unprecedented upheaval in the diocese. Yet more young men are coming to the diocese to enter seminary than in two generations,” he said. “And I don’t know why.”
Things are looking up, too, in Kansas, where 32 are in seminaries. The Rev. Brian Schieber, vicar general for clergy of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, remembers spring of 1993, when there were only three.
“In the Midwest, we are doing far better than the coasts,” he said proudly.
A recent study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate was published in “Same Call, Different Men: The Evolution of the Priesthood Since Vatican II.” The aging trend, the authors noted, was “by far the most striking trend to come from these data, and probably the one trend that is having the most immediate impact on priestly life.”
In 1970, only 3 percent of priests said they were retired. By 2009, the time of the last survey, it was more than a fifth. This reflects not only the graying of the baby boomers, but also the smaller number of men entering the priesthood and more later-in-life ordinations.
“There is a steady growth in (number of) Catholics, but not enough men coming into the priesthood to compensate for those who entered in the ’50s and ’60s (when ordinations were at their peak),” said Mary Gautier, a senior research associate at the center.
The article goes on to look at aging priests who are electing not to retire, and some men who are supervising multiple parishes.