Youngstown Diocese considers more consolidation to cover priest shortage

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The Catholic Diocese of Youngstown is doing the best it can to manage the number of priests it has right now, considering a shortage worldwide.

Earlier this year, the Pope said he was open to the idea of married men becoming priests as one way to address the problem.

Holy Rosary in Lowellville used to have four masses on Sunday. Now it has just one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

This weekend, a deacon was leading one of the services.

“We just found ourselves in a situation after making about 12 phone calls, we could not find someone to preside at the 4:30 Mass on Saturday,” said Father John Jerek, with the Youngstown Diocese.

The Diocese had a dozen positions to fill this past weekend between vacations, illnesses, and other circumstances.

Other churches have parish leaders who are not ordained and the Church has to provide sacramental leaders.

The Youngstown Diocese is battling to overcome five priest retirements and four deaths, which has reduced the number of men who can serve.

“At the same time, we have not reduced the number of Masses and so we can find ourselves on a given Saturday with five or six Masses within a mile or two radius and those churches are not even one-third full,” Father Jerek said.

The Church is covering approximately 80 parishes with 135 priests in the six-county diocese. In the 1960s, there were 300 active priests.

“In these times, I think it requires some shared sacrifice on the part of our people who are not always going to be able to worship where they want to worship but also on the part of our priests who are willing to go the extra mile when they need to,” Father Jerek said.

He admits the church is considering more consolidation.

“Our people have learned to adjust to this. Every generation of the Church has to rise to the challenge of the times and right now, these are the challenges that face us,” he said.

There are 21 men currently in the seminaries but they won’t be available for another seven to ten years.