The shortage of parish clergy has left Denver-area Roman Catholic priests so "overworked" and "isolated" that the stressed-out pastors are forming a support group to discuss their problems and needs.
Nearly 60 of the Denver archdiocese's 232 priests attended the first meeting of the group.
Organizers said the group is a grass-roots organization with no ties to the archdiocese but added that it did not mean to be antagonistic to church authorities. Mostly, they said, it is a "care and support" group for priests struggling with personal or career problems.
Others, however, said the group will also be a sounding board for priests "who don't feel their views are adequately represented at the chancery," the archdiocesan headquarters.
Organizers also said Archbishop Charles Chaput, head of the Denver archdiocese, is welcome at the meetings.
A spokesman for Chaput said the archbishop "encourages any gathering of priests where they can share their concerns in ministry."
"We don't view this group as adversarial," the spokesman said.
Morale among priests has become an increasing problem in recent years as the shortage of parish priests has created new work burdens.
Organizers of the Denver group, the Fraternity of Denver Priests, said similar priest-run organizations exist in at least eight other dioceses.