New mission country: U.S.A.

Bryan Cones| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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The New York Times began a series Sunday on foreign-born priests working in the United States. U.S. Catholic, of course, beat them to the punch, with our own feature that will appear in the February issue, sent to the printer two weeks ago. Our story, I'm happy to brag, does a better job of putting the issue in the context of the U.S. priest shortage.

The priest shortage is hardly breaking news, though, but this particular response--recruiting priests from the developing world to fill empty rectories and pulpits--is becoming increasingly common. The priest featured in today's story is from Kenya and is working in the Owensboro, Kentucky diocese. My folks' parish in Knoxville, Tennessee also has an African priest.

The phenomenon extends beyond those who are already ordained, however. In the Chicago archdiocese's last ordination class, only one of the 20 or so newly ordained was born in the United States, and he wasn't actually from Chicago!

In the end I don't think importing clergy from clergy-poor countries is much of a solution for our shrinking presbyterates and growing parishes. Eventually something is going to have to give, especially as the shortage escalates in the next decade. My prediction: Married Roman Catholic clergy by 2015.