Milwaukee Catholics try new ways to solve priest shortage
More parishes share pastors, give duties to lay employees
By TOM HEINEN
June 22, 2008
With 77 diocesan priests reaching the optional retirement age of 68 within the next five years, change isn’t just in the wind for more Catholics in southeastern Wisconsin.
It’s percolating in parish offices as the region’s largest denomination strives to invigorate its flock while creatively countering the priest shortage, declining Mass attendance counts, the impact of the sexual abuse crisis and the deficit-driven downsizing of its central offices.
Nineteen priests already serve as pastors of more than one parish. Five parishes are run by a parish director who has theological training, with an assisting priest coming on a limited basis to say Mass and provide other sacramental ministry. the rest
(The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee is taking an approach very different from other Catholic dioceses which are wedded to the one priest/one parish model resulting in large parishes and an exodus of people from the pews as the diocese forcibly closes their churches. This unfortunately results in the creation of megachurches where parishioners have a difficult time connecting with one another. The Milwaukee approach seems to rely more on lay leaders, and thus allows small parishes to remain open and church members to stay enthused about their local congregation. Three cheers for Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan who has said that there will be no more parish closures unless parishes request it. -Raymond Dague)