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On October 13, 2011, parishes throughout the Baltimore Archdiocese received a letter from the Apostolic Administrator, Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien, calling attention to a number of critical challenges facing parishes in the archdiocese and asking for participation in a parish planning process designed to address those challenges. The letter pointed out that:
Seventy-two of the 153 active-duty priests in the archdiocese will become eligible for retirement over the next 15 years;
Seventeen of those 153 priests are already over the retirement age of 70;
Since 1976, an average of only three new priests have been ordained each year;
There are 20% fewer priests today but the same number of parishes (153) as there were 30 years ago; and
If the current trends hold, the number of active priests will be reduced from 153 to 100 over the next 15 years.
Planning for a future that has fewer priests to serve the needs of the nearly 500,000 registered Catholics in the archdiocese is one of a number of causes for concern. It is time for a thorough examination of how and where the parishes of the archdiocese can best live out the evangelizing mission of the church, understanding that we must all be open to change. It is clear that the process will take time and will involve a great deal of research, collaborative planning and listening.
The complete letter from Cardinal O'Brien can be found at www.buildingupthebodyofchrist.org, a new website created by the archdiocese to enhance communication and transparency for the planning initiative.