There may be a decline of priests and church attendance across the nation, but the Archdiocese of Atlanta is bucking both trends, with packed churches and more than 50 seminarians in training.
The number of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Atlanta has more than doubled in the last 10 years, growing from 256,000 to an estimated 600,000. St. Thomas the Apostle church in Smyrna, for example, holds nine masses each weekend, five in English and four in Spanish.
The archdiocese’s 95 churches and missions are currently served by 262 priests. This clergy-to-church ratio of nearly three to one is significant given that some U.S. churches have no pastors.
Fr. Luke Ballman, the archdiocese’s director of vocations, attributes the high number of clergy and seminarians to a strong vocations program.
"We have one of the strongest vocational programs in the country," he told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He added that the influx of Catholics to the region has also helped bring many young men who are interested in becoming priests.
The archdiocese also has the support of the Serra Club, which helps support priestly vocations through scholarships and prayer. About 600 Serrans were in Atlanta over the weekend for a national conference.