While the ominous subject of priest shortages in many parts of the world took center stage at the recent Synod of Catholic Bishops in Rome, the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska is reporting that their numbers for men committing to a life of priestly service and celibacy, are thriving.
The Daily Nebraskan newspaper reported today that the Diocese currently boasts the highest ratio of priests to faithful in the U.S.
According to the Official Catholic Directory of 2005, there are currently 121 active diocesan priests and 89,236 Catholics in the Diocese of Lincoln.
This results in one priest for every 737 Catholics in Lincoln, compared to a national average of one priest for every 4,723 Catholics.
The nearby Diocese of Omaha is not far behind, with one priest for every 1,755 Catholics--still well above the national average.
Part of the area’s success is the benefit of having their own seminary--Saint Gregory the Great--right there in the diocese. Many however, credit the vocational boon to the diocese’s faithfulness to the Magisterial teaching of the Church.
Fr. Robert Matya, chaplain at the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman center near the University of Nebraska campus thinks that the diocese‘s success is not simply a matter of politics, as many may assume.
“It’s not that we try to be overly conservative,” he told the Daily Nebraskan, “but as a diocese, we do try to act how God wants us to be, and I think that is very appealing to a lot of these young men.”
Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, who was installed at Bishop of Lincoln in 1992, wrote in a recent column of the importance “for all Catholics to obey our Lord's command to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood.”
He stressed, at the same time, that “it is equally important to pray for those who are already our priests.”
Fr. Matya also told the Nebraskan that, “Our Catholic schools have always been terrific here…We have also really been blessed with lots of young, enthusiastic priests … and I believe it’s easier for these kids coming out of high school to connect with that enthusiasm.”