In some rural areas, they comprise a significant part of the clergy population. From the Intermountain Catholic newspaper in Salt Lake City:
Deacon Rick Klein’s move from Moab to Fort Collins, Colo. “creates a tremendous ministry hole,” said Father William Wheaton, pastor of the parishes Saint Pius X in Moab and Saint Joseph in Monticello and Sacred Heart Mission in La Sal; he also covers Saint Michael the Archangel Mission in Green River.
In addition to preaching once a month or so, Deacon Klein often conducted Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest when Fr. Wheaton was unable to celebrate Mass for one of the Catholic communities in the area. In addition, this past year he taught the Confirmation class at St. Michael the Archangel Mission.
“That was just a tremendous help to me because I couldn’t cover it all,” said Fr. Wheaton, who spent six hours a week in Green River each Tuesday, teaching First Communion and 4th- through 6th-grade religious education classes, on top of the two-hour round trip travel time.
Fr. Wheaton said he also will miss Deacon Klein because he will now have to prepare a homily every week. “Just from a practical standpoint, to be able to have one Sunday a month or one Sunday every six weeks where you can have a little break and hear someone else’s perspective on the Scripture is a gift. Now I don’t have that. It’s difficult in these rural areas where we don’t have deacons to have any kind of a break at all.”
With Deacon Klein’s departure, the only ordained clergy in the area from Interstate 70 to the Utah border are Fr. Wheaton and Deacon Tom Corrao in Monticello. The nearest priests are about 100 miles away: Father Donald Hope at Notre Dame de Lourdes Parish in Price and Father Albert Kileo at Saint Anthony of Padua Parish in Helper.
Deacon Klein’s leaving “creates a tremendous ministry hole in these rural areas when you have such limited resources,” Fr. Wheaton said. “I don’t think people realize … what it’s like down here in terms of the isolation.”
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