Published: August 22, 2011
“Some priests may choose not to become pastors”
Lay woman named to lead Santa Clara parish with three priests on staff
San Jose Bishop Patrick McGrath has named a lay “minister of parish life” to administer a large Santa Clara parish instead of appointing a new pastor -- even though three priests are listed in the parish’s online staff directory.
Bishop McGrath, according to the diocesan website, named Dorothy Carlson to run St. Justin Parish in Santa Clara, which this year celebrates its 60th anniversary. The parish website lists the following priests associated with the parish: Fr. George Mancha, parochial vicar; Fr. Edsil Ortiz, OFM, parochial vicar, Ministry to the Sick, the Dying and the Grieving; and Fr. Joseph Pendergast, CPPs, “In Residence.”
According to the diocesan website, Carlson had previously served as pastoral associate, business manager and director of liturgy at St. Justin’s before being installed as minister of parish life on July 24.
“In November 2005, Bishop McGrath named Elizabeth Lilly the first Minister of Parish Life, serving Sacred Heart Parish, Saratoga through June 30, 2006,” explained the entry about Carlson’s appointment on the diocesan website. “Lilly, an experienced pastoral minister, now retired, had served several parishes in a variety of roles over 25 years and at the time was serving at Sacred Heart Parish as Pastoral Associate and twice served as Administrator pro tem there. Lilly said then that she viewed her role as a work in collaboration with those who are ordained.”
“This is another example of the variety of gifts,” Lilly was quoted as saying on the diocesan website. “We have to work together to use all the gifts available among all people in the parish community.”
The decision to use ministers of parish life instead of priest-pastors in the San Jose diocese dates back to 1995, when the diocesan Council of Priests urged then-Bishop Pierre DuMaine to pursue the idea of using lay people instead of priests to lead parishes. Before his retirement in 1999, Bishop DuMaine approved of the concept.
“My aim in encouraging the Council to pursue this matter does not rest on any impending crisis or clergy shortage,” explained Bishop DuMaine in a 1995 letter to priests. “It is instead an effort to delineate more closely the optimum use of priests in parochial ministry and to establish a doctrinally and pastorally sound basis for lay leadership that has continued to mature and evolve since the Second Vatican Council and which has developed constructively in the brief history of our own diocese.”
Bishop McGrath took over the diocese upon Bishop DuMaine’s retirement in 1999 – and moved forward with the idea. In 2003, Bishop McGrath approved a selection process for ministers of parish life “who would eventually be assigned by him to lead parish life in specific parishes,” according to the diocesan website.
Diocesan thinking on the issue is explained in an entry under the heading “commentary” below the announcement of Carlson’s appointment as minister of parish life at St. Justin’s. The section outlines the reasons the option appealed to the diocese: “The number of priests is dwindling. Some priests may choose not to become ‘pastors.’ There are increasing numbers of highly educated, experienced and motivated lay Catholics who view ministry as a profession. Closing or merging some parishes was a negative option. ‘Circuit-rider’ priests who would be the central parish leader in two or more parishes was not considered to be a healthy option for priests or parishes.”
The San Jose diocese has 99 active diocesan priests and 22 religious priests serving 53 churches, a parishioner living in the diocese told California Catholic Daily in an email message. “I didn't count retired priests and priests away on mission, medical leave, or studies,” he said.
Monday, August 22, 2011
California Catholic Daily - “Some priests may choose not to become pastors”