Priest Shortage Worsens In North Country

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The Diocese of Ogdensburg is finding itself in the position of having to accommodate more Catholics with a smaller number of priests.

It's not a new problem, but one that the diocese is refocusing its efforts on.

The priest shortage could bring more merging parishes and an increased role of responsibility for deacons and laypersons.

"We've really been trying to be creative in trying to assure that the pastoral care of the people remains even if they don't have a resident pastor," said Bishop Terry LaValley.
 
The diocese, covering eight counties, has 67 active priests to serve more than 104,000 Catholics.

That's a far cry from the 119 active priests that served the diocese nearly 20 years ago.

The shortage of young men answering the call to priesthood has not only forced some parishes to consolidate, but required some priests to do double-duty.

Still others are called upon to serve parishes long after they were supposed to be retired.
 
Father Joseph Morgan entered the priesthood in 1981.

Now 32 years later, he sees the church in a pivotal mode.
 
"The priests are getting older and there aren't so many coming in behind us, so there's some new efforts underway to encourage vocations," said Morgan.
 
Meanwhile, Bishop LaValley will be holding a series of 10 listening sessions across the diocese to help form diocesan priorities, including ministry and service.

The first session will be May 14 in Ogdensburg.
 
The bishop says the listening sessions will be used to define a vision and plan for the Diocese for the next several years.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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