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How one Canadian diocese is coping with a shortage of priests


David Whelan | Public Domain

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 10/06/17


A steady decline in the number of Catholic priests is pushing the Diocese of London to group parishes together beginning next year. Three years ago Bishop Ronald Fabbro called a task force to investigate how other dioceses in Canada and the United States proposed to deal with the shortage of priests. A new model called the Family of Parishes where three to five parishes are grouped together is expected to begin in early 2018. Unlike parishes that have been merged already, under this model the parishes are not closed and remain distinct, Diocese of London communications officer Nelson Couto said Thursday. He said the task force’s intent is that Sunday mass will be celebrated in every church in the grouping, although it will not be possible to have as many masses as are held currently. “It should be noted that the task force will not be recommending the closure of any parishes or churches.” The diocese hopes to have all parishes in these groups by 2025. A 2011 report on the trends impacting pastoral planning in the diocese found a decline in the number of people who identify as Catholics and that the majority of priests were between the ages of 41 and 65. “If current trends and strategies continue, by 2025 there will be just one priest for every two or three parishes, and the average age of these priests would be older,” the report said. The London diocese has 121 active and 56 retired priests which is enough to cover the 128 parishes, Couto said.

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