The Plymouth Observer & Eccentric has an interesting article about changes coming to the Roman Catholic parishes in Plymouth and our sister community, Canton. It appears that the Canton parishes will see more drastic changes than in Plymouth. All this is based on a well-publicized report of the Archdiocese of Detroit, that essentially indicates a number of churches in the diocese will have to be merged or closed in the coming years. One of the problems, apparently, is the decrease in young priests. A number of older priests will be retiring soon and there aren’t the young men behind them to fill their slots.
Parishioners at St. Kenneth Catholic Church and Our Lady of Good Counsel could notice some differences as a result of a report released by the Archdiocese of Detroit last week, but any changes aren’t likely to be major.
While the report calls for the two Plymouth churches to “partner” for at least some services, neither parish is slated to close or merge, and any changes are likely three to five years away.
The changes will be more dramatic in Canton, where St. John Neumann, Resurrection and St. Thomas a’Becket likely will merge into one parish with three worship sites.
Mark Curtis, who serves as chair of the OLGC Parish Council and represented the church on the planning committee that forged the archdiocese report, said no impact will likely be felt in Plymouth parishes, at least at first.
“We don’t really expect any impact initially,” Curtis said. “The entire process is trying to get out in front of a statistical reality that there is going to be a dramatic reduction in the number of priests available in the next 10-15 years. As the archdiocese did about six years ago, we went through the process of identifying where are the Catholics now, and where should they worship?”
Curtis said the strength of the Catholic presence in the Plymouth-Canton area (OLGC has some 8,900 parishioners) left the area unscathed in terms of closings. While at least nine churches are set to be closed under the plan, none of them are in Plymouth or Canton.
“What the archdiocese directed every parish to do is identify a partner,” Curtis said. “What it’s not going to mean is any sort of closure. (St. Kenneth and OLGC) will both continue to be independent parishes, have their own pastors. We’ll look to see where we can share resources where it might make sense, but members won’t notice a difference (in services), certainly not for the foreseeable future.”
What Curtis said is more important, perhaps, than paring down the number of parishes is shoring up the number of priests. According to
the report, 39 (13 percent) of the 293 priests currently serving in the archdiocese are 70 years old or older, and another 21 are eligible for retirement in the next three years. The average age of priests is 62.
Curtis said a key component of the archdiocese plan is to foster vocational choices that draw more young people into the seminary. One of the priorities put forward by Archbishop Allen Vigneron was to “get creative” and figure out how to foster vocations.
Church officials, Curtis said, need to start talking about the priesthood in church, with the young people, in order to at least make them consider the possibility of serving God.
“God hasn’t stopped calling men to the priesthood, men have stopped answering,” Curtis said. “The idea would be to get men to start answering the call. If we’re not talking about it in the parish, and more specifically in our families, we can’t expect young men to hear that call and answer it.”