Indiana copes with priest shortage

From the Post-Tribune newspaper, which toward the end makes mention of deacons:

Early in his career, the Rev. Rick Orlinski was one of three priests at Our Lady of Grace in Highland and spent two to three days each week ministering to the sick in their homes.

Now, there is one priest who serves the church while Orlinski juggles multiple parishes in Hammond — St. John Bosco and St. Joseph.

The United States is experiencing a decline in the number of Catholic priests — as fewer men enter the priesthood — despite a rise in those identifying as Catholic. The Diocese of Gary has coped with the priest shortage by allowing deacons or lay ministers to give communion to shut-ins.

“It’s more of a question to empower as many people as possible,” Orlinski said. “You rely on other people to help out.”..

…Bishop Dale Melczek said the diocese has 11 seminarians with one on track to be ordained in the next year.

“They are of great quality and we have a great deal of hope for the future,” Melczek said.

Melczek said it is up to each diocese to decide how they will respond to fewer priests. While the Diocese of Lafayette has welcomed more foreign priests, Melczek said Gary’s priests decided to increase the number of deacons and lay ministers within the diocese.

“We do have fewer priests now than 10 and 20 years ago,” Melczek said. “But there is more vitality in our parishes than ever before.”

The number of deacons has increased by a significant margin — from 42 in 2006 to 63 in 2012. Melczek will ordain eight more deacons in June. In May, almost two dozen lay ministers will graduate.

Melczek pointed to the deacons and lay ministers — who must complete at least four years of coursework in theology, spirituality and pastoral formation — as helping to engage the lay faithful in all the church’s ministries.

“What strengthens our members is more opportunities for engagement in the church,” Melczek said. “Thanks to the leadership of our priests and those who collaborate we are motivating all of the faithful to use the variety of gifts God has given them through baptism and confirmation to share with others the love and compassion they personally experience.”

Read it all.

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