.- Two U.S. dioceses have announced new parish reorganization plans to deal with the shortage of priests and a sharp decline in the number of Sunday worshippers.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has decided to merge two parishes in Ripon and two in Thiensville. Four parishes in Milwaukee will also become two parishes; they will each have a priest, but their four schools will remain, reported the Associated Press.
Milwaukee’s five-year plan will include training for priests, deacons and lay people that will help them adjust to having deacons and lay people take on a greater role. The archdiocese has also developed the position of "administrator of pastoral services" in order to relieve priests of many administrative duties.
The number of Milwaukee’s active priests is expected to decline about 20 percent by 2009. The archdiocese has already had to deal with priest shortage in the past. In 1997, it responded by merging or closing more than 40 parishes.
Church attendance also dropped from about 60 percent in 1988 to 36 percent in 2002, reported the AP.
Due to a declining number of clergy in Vermont, Church leaders there will also be meeting to determine the fate of their parishes. The first of 10 meetings will be held in Rutland tomorrow to decide how to consolidate the state’s 131 Catholic parishes.
The Diocese of Burlington estimates that the number of active Vermont priests will drop to 55 in the next decade, down from more than 150 a half-century ago.