Morning Read: North Country priest shortage approaches crisis stage

NCPR has been reporting for more than a decade on the deepening shortage of Roman Catholic priests in the North Country.

The Church is an important religious institution in the region, but it has also served important roles that extended well beyond the parish and the pews, educating children, providing social services, and helping with kids and seniors.

Now, the Plattsburgh Press Republican’s Stephen Bartlett has a fascinating piece about the precipitous decline in the number of priests available to serve the region.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg might well see its population of priests shrink to 40 within 10 years, a far cry from the 92 it had in 1998.

In Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties, 27 pastors are serving parishes now; that number is expected to fall to 16.

The Diocese of Ogdensburg is a big place.  Bartlett’s article suggests that lay-persons will pick up some of the slack, but with just 40 priests for the entire region those numbers suggest profound changes.


11 Comments on “Morning Read: North Country priest shortage approaches crisis stage”

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  1. Mervel says:

    The non-Parish activities should not be largely impacted by having fewer priests. For example Catholic Charities have no priests working for it and have not had any for many years. The same goes for St. Joseph’s nursing home and other Catholic institutions and Catholic schools.

    The issue is the sacramental life of Catholics this is the core mission of every priest and will be negatively impacted by having fewer priests.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    Good! The question now is – how low do the numbers need to go before the Pope and the Bishops begin to consider ordaining women and those who would like to be priests but also want to get married? Same goes for women who would like to be nuns and/or sisters but who would like to get married.

  3. mervel says:

    A more likely scenario will be to let Permanent Deacons, who are already ordained for life, do much more in each Parish, including many of the Sacraments. They can already do many things.
    But the decision to change who can be a priest (who would want the job is beyond me!), would not be a local or national one, but would come out of the worldwide decision making body in Rome and would likely take many decades. The decision to have Deacons do more is already taking place and could move much quicker.
    Celibacy will always have a spiritual role in Christianity just as it has a role in Buddhism and Hinduism, the question is how far reaching it should be. Personally as a Catholic I think local Parish priests would benefit from the Sacrament of marriage. I also see the unique benefits of a life of celibacy that has been with the Church since the early Desert Monastic tradition. It certainly is counter cultural and sometimes we need that.

  4. Pete Klein says:

    The problem isn’t just celibacy. The main problem is dictatorship in a world looking for democracy.
    The Catholic Church has less concern for what the people think than any of the worlds current dictators.

  5. Mervel says:

    Oh well yes that was what the reformation was all about Church authority. There are many many Christians who share your view that the Catholic Church does not have spiritual authority given from the Apostles on forward, they are called Protestants.

  6. Cathy says:

    The Church was never intended to be a democracy or dictatorship.. It was created by God/Jesus to show us the meaning of God’s Law. The ten commandments were given by God and will be in effect until the end of time. We are free to break them for our own human pleasures but we then lose favor with God. We can play Russian roullette with our souls but we will still be judged on our adherence to God’s Laws. You can say you are an atheist but you cannot escape the final judgement day. You will be judged by God whether or not you believe in Him. The Pope and Bishops merely try to always point us in the right direction. Their authority comes directly from God as successors of the Chosen Apostles. Have a nice day and enjoy eternity wherever you are!

  7. Natural way says:


    As Mervel has pointed out, there are thousands of existing Christian denominations with new offshoots every day. There must be one out there that is in line with your views. If not, there will be soon. Martin Luther saw things he didn’t like and we all know what that led to. Then, Calvin wasn’t completely happy with Luther’s new vision, etc…

    Why should the Catholic Church have to change to conform to your view, or my view, or anyone else’s?

  8. Chris LaRose says:

    The Church cannot ordain women ever, that is already been determined by Christ. As for married priests, some married clergy converts to Catholicism are allowed to become priests, ie, Episcopal priests. Being a priest is not a job where he “goes home after work to be with his family,” but we who make up the Church, are his family and he is our spiritual father.

  9. Mervel says:

    I don’t know I think parish priests could gain a whole bunch from being married. The Church has had many married priests over the centuries and has had married Pope’s. I understand the thinking on not being married and I think that should certainly hold for Bishops and many others within the Church it will always be a part of the tradition. But I think there is a role for marriage within the Priesthood. But that is just me I see both sides. People want to worship Christ, if the Church pulls out of communities because of a shortage of priests; people will still worship Christ but may not worship Him in the Catholic Church which has left town. Maybe that is okay maybe God is sending a message?

  10. Chris LaRose says:

    The Catholic Church had few priests way back in the beginning, we’re still here. Jesus promised His Church would never die. (Mt 16:18) The faithful will always seek Jesus in His Holy Church, where else can we go to receive Him and the complete Truth as revealed by Him. (John 6:68-69)

  11. Pete Klein says:

    Did you know that in theory, I or any other Catholic, could become Pope even if I or you are currently married? Of course, if that were to happen, we would need to become a priest and you wouldn’t need to spend years in a seminary before being ordained. It could be done very quickly.
    As far as married priests are concerned, several of the original 12 Apostles were married.
    By the way, I would never stop being a Catholic any more than I could stop being an American of German decent. There are many things I disagree with the US government about but have no mind to leave it over a few disagreements. Same holds for the Catholic Church or any other religious organization. This jumping from religion to religion is very much like jumping from spouse to spouse. But I guess that is what Americans do.

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