Bishop’s Address Highlights Shortage of Priests

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SCRANTON -- The Diocese of Scranton covers 11 counties in our area and over the weekend, many Catholics saw a video from the bishop.

In the video, Diocese of Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera says the number of priests is likely to decrease by a fifth over the next decade.

That statistic can be a little shocking to Catholics in the Diocese of Scranton, who have seen many parishes and Catholic schools close over the past 10 years or so, but Bishop Bambera says the shrinking number of priests won't mean that more parishes will close, it will change the way parishes are run.

The Rev. Jeff Tudgay was in his early 20s and thinking about law school but then, he heard the call.

"And then toward the end of college, the only thing I can say is it was this incredible moment where God stepped into my life and said, 'I want you to explore this,'" Fr. Tudgay said.

At 31, Fr. Tudgay and his seminary classmate are the youngest priests in the Diocese of Scranton. They represent a shrinking society, as Bishop Bambera said in his video address to the entire diocese.

"In less than 10 years, the ranks of our 137 active priests will diminish by approximately 40 men, due to retirement, sickness, and other circumstances," said Bishop Bambera in the video.

But, the bishop says he hopes that statistic helped parishioners hear their own call to service.

"Our parishes are pretty strong right now. They're pretty vibrant. So, yesterday's conversation had nothing to do with closing parishes or anything like that. Some people have asked about that. Some people think I've sounded an alarm, one of the media outlets. I simply look at this as sharing with our people: 'Here's where we are. Here's a challenge. How are you going to work with me to best respond to that particular challenge?'"

Bishop Bambera says over the next decade, he sees parishes being run by more deacons, who can marry, and lay people taking on parish duties.

"I just think, basically, it's our culture. Our culture impresses me as very non-spiritual. And there's not much unity among Christians anymore," said Scranton resident Louis Loomis.

"It's not going to be a church from the top down in the future, and I think that's a change that the Holy Spirit in orchestrating," said Lindy Morelli of Scranton.

That's also the way Fr. Tudgay sees it. Though men like him are shrinking in number, he says it won't change the work that the Catholic Church does.

"So, is there a shift? Sure there is, but I think it's an invitation for all of us throughout the diocese to simply grow closer to Jesus. That's it."

Fr. Tudgay and Bishop Bambera said even though this is a worldwide problem, they don't anticipate any changes from the Vatican, such as allowing priests to marry to make the job more attractive. Some parishioners we spoke to said they would support that change.

14 comments

  • Nell

    This is rich. On the same channel 16 site there are stories about closing Catholic schools and about the shortage of priests in the diocese. Where does he think these new young priests are coming from? What is this called Father Bambera? Hypocritical? Chutzpah?

  • Rurbanite

    If we could just get the church to progress into the 16th century, that would be a major breakthrough.

  • The Mindful One

    The Church needs to be more progressive in its attitude towards women. There’s a whole untapped demographic that should be able to serve as Church leaders. Instead the Church keeps women behind the scenes while numbers decline not just for priests but parishioner totals as well. The Church needs to change if it’s to sustain the times.

  • Steve

    PA allows homosexuals to get married. That’s a huge factor in to why the shortages of priests, considering 90% of them are gay.

  • Nothing To See Here

    Time to fire up Vatican III. Let priests marry and have a family like other denominations. Heck, I might even sign on.

    • Father Guido Sarducci

      The church can’t afford to support single priests as it is now. If the priests get married where is the money going to come from for the wife, kids, medical, food, vacations, college educations, etc.? Get ready for second, third and fourth collections on a weekly basis. In addition good luck in trying to get a priest say in the middle of the night. Prepare to hear:”Father can’t come now, his son is up with the flu”.

      • Nothing To See Here

        Family oriented parishes fare far better than most. My parish is loaded with participating families, youth groups, student events and trips and nuclear families. As a result, our bank account is also well stocked. My theory is that a pastoral administration with an involved family of his own is far more successful in recruiting, outreach, and filling pews every week….not just Christmas and Easter.

      • DL

        Maybe Rome should start “allowing” 1 priest per diocese the marriage option. I mean Biblically, Peter (the 1st Pope) had a mother-in-law, St. Paul exhorted bishops (if you gonna get married) be the husband of one wife (1st Timothy 3). I mean can we agree the Church needs more accountability? Overall, I find that marriage increases accountability. If you want to know who I really am, ask my wife, ask my 3 boys, they will tell you! Come on Church, open yourself up to some female accountability!

    • Well, I'll be...

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure that you are making assumptions, regarding priests being gay. Nothing new…just like everyone assuming that all priests touch kids. No doubt, there have been some disgusting issues involving priests and kids, but the news stories fail to be honest about this issue. The fact is, the percentage of priests who are pedos is the same percentage for those outside the church. In other words, the church DOES NOT have an inordinately high number, as the news stories would suggest. It just appears that way, due to the attention the stories get. Don’t get me wrong, that number SHOULD BE ZERO with a position of such trust. I’m not even a practicing Catholic anymore…I just hate to see good priests unfairly profiled as some sort of sickos, when it’s just not true. Plus, I had a cousin who was a priest, and still have another cousin who is a nun. Both of them are really cool, and neither of them were ever sickos.

      I do think the Church should allow priests to get married. I’m sure that would boost their numbers, and may cut down on the number of pedos who probably commit such crimes out of some unhealthy frustration.

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