Friday, August 22, 2008

Pushing the Agenda

From the local paper... My comments in italics and red in some places.

Wanted: More Catholic priests | [Iowa City]
Robert Daniel, August 22, 2008

The Rev. Jeff Belger has been a priest for five years.

Nice guy, good priest.

Formerly running camps for the YMCA in Eastern Iowa, he said he felt called at the age of 30 to become a priest in the Catholic Church. Following five years of seminary training at St. Ambrose University in Davenport and St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana, he came to Iowa City, where he splits his time between serving at St. Mary's Catholic Church and the Newman Catholic Student Center at the University of Iowa.

It was a job he said he felt called by God to do.

"Through prayer, I felt led to explore if this was (what God wanted)," Belger, 40, said. "As I learned about being a priest, I felt it was more of a calling."

Belger, however, is becoming more of an anomaly as the Catholic Church continues to deal with a shortage of priests that is becoming more severe as more and more of them retire. [...]

Here be dragons! a lot of the usual numbers detailing a decline in priests...

The Diocese of Davenport, which Johnson County Catholic churches belong, has not been immune to the decrease.

Even though the total Catholic population has decreased slightly from 105,715 in 1976 to 105,650 in 2006, the number of priests has dropped 48.6 percent, from 226 in 1976 to 116 in 2006, according to figures from the Official Catholic Directory and FutureChurch [remember that name], a Cleveland-based group that has pushed for ordaining women and married priests.

The priest shortage even led the diocese to decide to move St. Thomas More Parish from Iowa City to northern Coralville rather than start a new church to better serve Catholics in Coralville and North Liberty.

The Rev. Wally Helms, pastor of St. Thomas More, said the decision is reflective of what the Catholic Church is enduring worldwide.

"You reallocate your resources," he said. "That's true with anything."

The reasons why fewer men are entering the priesthood are varied. The Rev. Marty Goetz, who is the vocation director for the Davenport Diocese, said factors such as materialism discourage some who decide to pursue a more secular job rather than the priesthood. Other factors, such as the requirement of celibacy for priests and the sex abuse scandal the Catholic Church has endured in recent years [yadda yadda yadda], have played a minor role in knocking down interest as well, he said.

However, he said a major reason could be fewer men heeding "a call from God."

"The vocations are out there," Goetz said. "But people are not listening to God's call."

Possible solutions for the priest shortage are as varied. Since priests are the only church members who can lead Mass and celebrate the Eucharist, some Catholics, such as members of FutureChurch [haven't we read about a similar movement here? Nearly same agenda too :P], have pushed for ordaining married priests as well as women.

Helms said it is unlikely changes will occur any time soon though he would welcome them.

"I don't have any problem with women priests or married priests," he said. "Lots of other Christian religions have that and they seem to be doing that."

Not my parish, thank God.

Goetz said it is a matter of current priests having a "sense of true joy" in their work as clergy and displaying it for others to see.

"When we find that joy, we celebrate through prayer and daily contact with people," he said. "We learn this is a wonderful life that way. It's not easy, but I believe if God brings you to it, he'll bring you through it. We have to trust God is there."

Belger said those considering becoming priests have to be willing to listen to God.

"(It's) asking God what He wants for your life as opposed to your desires," he said.

Reach Rob Daniel at 339-7360 or

Okay, this post is a /little/ mistitled as Mr. Daniel does a fairly good job of keeping it balanced by having some decent quotes from the vocations director and Fr. Belger. Might have been a better article if the reporter had mentioned the return of the Mass of Blessed John XXIII/St. Pius V/St. Gregory the Great/etc. to the area, but we can live without it.

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