Some “facts and figures” concerning the clergy situation here at St. Matthew’s:
When I arrived as pastor of St. Matthew’s in 2010 the clergy personnel situation was as follows:
- One full time pastor.
- Two full time associate pastors.
- Four permanent deacons.
- Two visiting priests every Sunday.
- Three Sunday visiting priests available for the Extraordinary Form Mass in the Chapel plus myself.
Almost all the above were vocations drawn from Long Island.
Today eleven years later the situation is as follows:
- One full time pastor.
- Still two full time associate pastors, though two of the three priests are 70 and over.
- One active permanent deacon available for Masses and other sacraments who is now handling all the pre-Baptism and pre-wedding work and many wedding ceremonies.
- No visiting priests.
Clearly then this has, and will continue to have, an impact on the life of the Parish that depends upon priestly or diaconal service.
The level of sacramental and liturgical services will necessarily be affected.
There is little practical expectation that this situation will improve in the near future at least; and certain things might need to be re-evaluated.
This is not unique to Saint Matthew’s Parish. Throughout the diocese, it is not only a question of mere numbers of priests, but also the pastoral effectiveness of those numbers given age, health, and other factors.
There is also little “cushion” for things such as expected and unexpected absences from the parish by the priests such as legitimate time off, annual retreat, family or health emergencies. ( To be autobiographical a bit, last May I had out-patient surgery that kept me off the weekend Mass schedule; as well as an unexpected in-patient hospitalization for five days last Fall.)
The current schedule of Masses and other Sacramental celebrations will be maintained for now, but it is not at all unlikely that changes in that and other liturgical services can be expected as time goes on.
I offer you these thoughts for your prayerful awareness.
In my opinion, this is also a further challenge for the Diocesan Bishop and his advisors to confront: namely a just and effective distribution of diocesan priests throughout the diocese. Another challenge is the feasibility of maintaining the current number of parishes (135) with a diminishing number of able, active, and capable diocesan priests to staff at least one in each. There is also the tendency to expect one to do more with less. From my perspective, it seems to me that each diocesan office in Rockville Centre runs at full tilt, and a flood of emails, deadlines, notices, statements, queries, and occasional demands issue forth from “headquarters”.
Well, as they say in the military, “That’s above my Pay Grade.”