The Association of US Catholic Priests is developing a proposal urging the US bishops to “formulate a plan now to meet this emerging crisis” of parish closings and consolidations.
According to a summary in the National Catholic Reporter (Jan. 31, 2017), the group is in the final stages of working on draft of the plan titled “Proposal for Pastoral Care In & Thru Priestless Parishes.”
Central to the plan is a “new and more specific exploration” of lay ecclesial ministers to oversee non-sacramental aspects of parish life and administration, according to a proposed plan cover letter.
In developing the plan, the cover letter stated, “We have relied on the USCCB’s 2005 document Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, as well as the 2015 Tenth Anniversary Reflection on that document. Co-Workers welcomed Lay Ecclesial Ministry and addressed the wide field of ministries that involve laity.”
The proposed text itself warns, “If USA Church leadership postpones dealing with this issue, the window of opportunity will slowly close” and result in “greater collapse of parishes,” “a loss of morale and health among priests,” and “further decline of the morale and trust of people who depend upon us to meet their spiritual needs.”
“As our Catholic presence diminishes, so will our presence in society in all of its aspects,” the plan draft states.
For the entire NCR summary, click here.