Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

Despite Gloomy Stats, Bishop Bolsters Spirit of the Clergy

In what can be described as a State of the Union for Vocations in the Diocese of Brooklyn, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio told the priests not to expect the numbers of priests to be as high as they were in the past. He was addressing about 300 diocesan priests who had come to Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington for their away convocation.

As a matter of fact, he revealed that the highest number of priests are those in the 70 and above range. The average age of the priest in this diocese is 55. The number of priests in Brooklyn and Queens today is down by 50 from ten years ago. On a positive note, there are 55 men studying for the diocesan priesthood.

Those are the cold numbers, but they do not tell the human and sacramental needs of an immigrant Church in Brooklyn and Queens. The bishop said that recruiting men to serve as priests is the reason he called for a Year for Vocations.

He explained that the first five years of a man’s priesthood are crucial to his future effectiveness in ministry. He said that is why the diocesan Priests Personnel Office strives to put young priests in assignments with good mentors in the rectory.

He stressed the importance of priests support groups, of priests not trying to do too much too early, of working collaboratively with the laity, and taking care of one’s health as ways to remain as enthusiastic and zealous as on the day of ordination.

He also noted surveys that show that priests generally feel more fulfilled in their work than other professions.

“Happiness comes from the satisfaction you get from serving your people,” he said.

He also acknowledged that a priest can sometimes feel underappreciated, and he assured the men that he sees the good that they do and acknowledged their contributions to the diocesan Church.

To continue to feel satisfied in their ministry, the bishop recommended that priests, first of all, be thankful for the gift of being priests. He urged them to have a best friend priest with whom they can share their feelings that can best be understood only by a fellow member of the clergy.

Being realistic that the diocese may not be able to staff every parish as it once did, he said there may have to be future combinations of parishes. The practice at present is not to close churches but to join churches into one parish with multiple worship sites. He urged priests to remain open to transfers between parishes so that neighborhoods’ unique needs can be met.

“There’s little to be gained by closing parishes,” said the bishop. “It only ruins people’s faith.”

Still he noted that it’s challenging to consolidate a number of parishes into one. Many times people want to continue attending the church they’ve always attended. The challenge to a priest is to make two or three churches feel like one single entity.

As Bishop DiMarzio often admits, one of his roles is to be the chief cheerleader. On this day, with all his priests gathered around him, he spoke like a brother to some, and a father to others. There’s was no mistaking that he was trying to bolster their spirits and the men seemed to respond.

Related: Diocese’s Priests Hear Call to Reject Mediocrity

One thought on “Despite Gloomy Stats, Bishop Bolsters Spirit of the Clergy