.- Bishop John Kinney of St. Cloud, Minnesota, has invited the faithful of his diocese to participate in finding creative solutions to deal with the priest shortage.
"There are not enough priests available for us to continue as we have in the past," diocese planning director Jane Marrin told the St. Cloud Times.
There are currently 82 priests serving the diocese’s 137 parishes. Fourteen of these priests are older than 70; 21 are between 60 and 70 years old.
Currently, the diocese has 17 seminarians, and it expects to ordain 10 new priests in the next four years. Only one priest was ordained this year.
Up until now, the diocese has been dealing with the priest shortage by combining parishes and bringing priests, who were serving in rural areas, into the urban centers. St. Cloud, like many dioceses, has experienced demographic shifts and many parishioners have moved from rural to urban areas. Still, other long-term solutions must be found.
The bishop has therefore launched a process, called “Re-visioning Church”, and has asked pastors, lay leaders and parishioners to recommend new ways to staff the 15 parishes in the city of St. Cloud.
Marrin describes the process as “an exciting opportunity to engage all of the faithful in strengthening our parish communities.”
At meetings in parishes in September and October, parishioners will become educated about ministerial staffing issues. It will also help parishioners deal with their concerns about staffing and fears of parish closures, and provide them an opportunity to give diocesan official feedback.
During the masses of Oct. 29-30, parishioners will be asked to write their reflections or questions about potential changes.
All parish responses will be gathered and reviewed by a parish planning group, which will then make recommendations to the bishop about potential pastoral staffing changes. The bishop will announce all final decisions.