There is nothing sadder than hearing about the closing of a Roman Catholic parish. This article is about the closure of Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church in the Diocese of Gary, Indiana.
As the author of the artilce poignantly shows, there are many different reasons for why Blessed Sacrament is closing among them the aging of parishioners and the priest shortage. As Bishop Melczek points out, he has not ordained any priests in his diocese for the last six years. While four priests will retire, there are fewer and fewer to take their places. If this pattern continues, more churches in Gary will close and the diocese will shrink.
To me, the priest shortage is symptomatic of what has happened since Vatican II. As I mentioned to a friend over the phone, the Council’s documents were not carefully implemented. Rather, everybody decided to jump on them the moment that they were published. If the Vatican had published some document that clarified what was actually said, this might have quenched some of the problems that we are dealing with today. Yet such a thing did not happen. Religious Orders began to experiment with living arrangements for their religious, the Daughters of Charity threw out their cornettes (not a bad idea considering how many pins it took to keep one of those things in place), and the Gregorian Mass disappeared. As the decades moved forward, people began to realize exactly what kind of revolution had occurred in their Church and it was too late for some of them.
A couple of years ago, I attended the 50th jubilee for a group of sisters that sponsor a music school in my city. When we entered the convent, a large modern brick building, one of the sisters gave me a program. The program listed the names of the sisters that would be celebrating their jubilees. While some were celebrating 65 or 70 years as well as 50, there was only one sister who was celebrating 25 years. I was tempted to ask if there had been anybody that had contemplated a vocation with these sisters, once one of the most prominent teaching Orders on the West Coast, but I didn’t ask because I knew the answer already. Vocations for the religious life have been drying up for years. Therefore, it is easy to understand why nobody would have entered this particular Order in the three decades. (The situation is better now because a new sister professed her final vows earlier last year.)
Reading about Blessed Sacrament parish, my heart sank like it did on that day so many years ago. Once again, I thought about asking if there was anybody in that diocese that had a vocation to the priesthood. As Bishop Melczek noted, there is only one.
Let us pray for vocations, our bishops, our priests, and the Holy Father during these difficult times.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!