July 8, 2005


Comparisons aid perspective

Over the past several weeks, in discussions in this newspaper and over coffee and donuts in parish meeting halls throughout the archdiocese, Catholics have been talking about the recent recommendations for the staffing of our parishes in the future.

An earlier editorial in this space pointed out that as difficult as some of the changes called for in the recommendations might seem to be at first, this Church of ours in central and southern Indiana has in many ways “been there before.” As one example, we cited the historical record that our first bishop started the diocese with three priests—and one of those priests was on loan from a neighboring diocese. We pointed out that our pioneer ancestors in the faith really knew something about sharing priests!

A recent news story distributed by Catholic News Service caught our eye because it once again challenged us to keep things in perspective.

The news item reported on an around-the-world trip by His Beatitude Mar Emmanuel III (Emmanuel-Karim) Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, headquartered in Baghdad.

During the U.S. leg of his journey, the patriarch asked Americans to pray for the people of Iraq—both Christians and Muslims—that they can achieve the peace and security necessary to lead normal lives.

The Chaldean Christians are a minority of a tiny minority of Christians in Iraq. The Chaldeans were part of the of the Nestorian Church of the East, or East Syriac Church, until they reunited with Rome in 1551.

What is most informative for us in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and in other dioceses facing a future with fewer and fewer priests is that in Iraq, 200 priests minister to the 600,000 Chaldeans. That’s a priest-to-parishioner ratio of 1 to 3,000. In the United States, only 20 Chaldean priests are available to minister to about 160,000 Chaldeans now living here, mostly in southeast Michigan. That’s a priest-to-parishioner ratio of 1 priest for every 8,000 parishioners.

And now for the perspective that gives us: the current priest-to-parishioner ratio in our archdiocese is 1 to 1,900. In 2012, projections indicate that the ratio will increase in our archdiocese to 1 priest for every 2,700 parishioners.

While that’s not good news for either the Chaldean Catholics or for us, it does show that the Church continues despite difficulties. It should also motivate us to pray and work for more vocations to the ordained priesthood.

Underlying this situation is the immediate need to find ways to support the hardworking priests who serve us and to work with them in effective and positive ways. At installation ceremonies for new pastors, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein often urges parishioners to do three things: to pray for and invite vocations to the priesthood, to focus on what unites us instead of what might divide us, and to always ask their pastor if he has been praying, resting, exercising, and playing.

To us, that sounds like a solid approach of caring for the priests we have. Let’s see to it!

— William R. Bruns  


Local site Links: