Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wanted: More Priests

CBS Evening News
July 17, 2007

Hers may be the new face of the Catholic Church. Meet Sister Dorothy Pawlus of Pittsburgh.

"When I entered religious life, I didn't really know where God would use me," Pawlus told CBS News correspondent Kelly Wallace.

As the first parish life coordinator in Pittsburgh, Pawlus does just about everything a pastor would do — except for administering the sacraments and celebrating Mass.

"This will free up some of the priests to do more of the administrative roles in the diocese or not to have to take on two parishes," Pawlus said.

There were 784 priests in Pittsburgh in 1960. Now there are just 514, and their median age is 61. Nationwide, every year, 1,200 priests retire or die, while only about 450 are ordained to take their place.

What role do experts think the church scandal has played?

"I think we would be naïve to say that the scandals have not played a role," said Monsignor Tom Nydegger, vice rector of Seton Hall's Immaculate Conception Seminary. "I think in the 1960s, we saw dramatic changes in the way people thought, the way people thought about government, about authority, about themselves."

A major challenge for the Church is finding more men like 41-year-old Father Jim Ferry, who left the corporate world and became a priest last year.

"I thought about how I would live a life of service that we're all called to," Ferry said.

The shortage has led to renewed debate about whether the Catholic Church needs to change its ways by removing the celibacy requirement or allowing women to become priests.

"I don't want to be a priest, but I think the people of the parish deserve a pastoral presence," Pawlus said.

A presence that, given the stark numbers, will have to be filled by more non-traditional faces.

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