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.