IN THEORY:

Priests-in-training are reportedly getting older, at least in the Catholic Church. Many older men, seeking second careers, are responding to the priest shortage in the Catholic Church, which has reportedly been seeing a shortage for decades. For some, the Sept. 11 attacks inspired some of these men to enter the priesthood. Others reportedly said they considered the priesthood as children but were distracted or afraid. What do you think, in general, of the idea of being ordained later in life? Can it help a ministry?

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It is true there is a shortage of priests and that the average age is rising. Also, the average number of Catholics per priest is rising, and so is the average age of those preparing for the priesthood. I have no problem with a man being ordained later in life. If he is capable of doing the work it certainly would help.

In affluent societies like the United States, young people find it very difficult to give up some of the freedoms and comforts they enjoy. It is difficult to commit oneself to anything that takes a long time. Our young people are maturing at a later age and getting married at a later age. It used to be closer to age 20; now it seems closer to age 30. Marriage requires a lifelong commitment. Even if divorce follows, the children they had together create a lifelong bond.

Saint Peter said to Jesus, “We have put aside everything to follow you!” And Jesus said that anyone who gives up family or children or property for him and for the gospel will receive 100 times as much in this life and in the age to come everlasting life. (See Mark 10: 28-31)

Some suggest solving a complex problem with an easy fix, such as ordaining women or a married clergy. Either idea seems most unlikely and probably wouldn't help the mission of evangelizing the world and preaching the gospel message of Jesus.

THE REV. GENE FRILOT

Pastor Emeritus

Incarnation Catholic Church

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They say that youth is wasted on the young, and that's because age grants us wisdom that would've been so useful when we were in our physical prime. However, ministry doesn't necessarily require men to be young and athletic; healthy yes, but Proverb 16:31 observes that “Gray hair is a crown of splendor” (New International Version), and that's because a person of maturity has experienced life. Every trial leaves silver strands as it fashions us into counselors, teachers and sympathizers. Issues have been meditated upon, wrestled and settled, and the realization sets in that we actually know a few things, finally.

Perhaps retirees and midlife vocation-switchers would actually be in better position to know what they want, and to what they are best suited (especially pertaining to religious office).

Something that's always stymied me about the Roman priesthood is the Vatican's insistence that its clergy remain unmarried. The practice was not always the rule in Christianity, and certainly it was one of the first things jettisoned by Protestants when we broke away during the Reformation.

We're all plenty aware that there are fewer men with the gift of celibacy than there are men who nevertheless become Catholic priests, but a man of more years would be in a better place to know this about himself. He may also have already experienced marriage and family, and has satisfied any personal need for such in the future. I believe it's also true that while priests are forbidden to marry, married men are not necessarily excluded from priestly consideration. Maybe waiting is the best exception to the rule, and wouldn't that also be wise?

My admonition? Consider well the ramifications of what you represent if you choose this course, “because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).

THE REV. BRYAN GRIEM

Senior Pastor

Montrose Community Church

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I see no problem with older individuals seeking second careers as priests, especially since priests are sorely needed. Also, I'm sure that their life experience will contribute in a positive way to their ministry.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reports that the number of priests in the U.S. has declined by about 20% in the last 40 years. In contrast, the number of Catholics in the U.S. has risen. Furthermore, the shortage of priests will grow more critical as this population group ages. The median age of Catholic priests is in the 50s.

This situation has prompted some to argue for the ordination of women. However, the Catholic Church has consistently rejected this idea, and I don't expect the church to change its theological position regarding male priests, at least not in the near future.

Thus, the shortage of priests seems to make the acceptance of older individuals in that profession a necessity.

There's also something to be said about their maturity and experience. The skills and knowledge acquired through the years will surely benefit them as they serve their congregations.

It's well-known that priests, and clergy in general, deal with a plethora of issues and situations in churches. I can attest to this from my own personal experience, having served nearly 18 years as a church pastor. They function as managers, counselors, educators and administrators, just to name a few. Any experience in those areas will definitely help them in their ministry.

This is not to say that they won't face challenges. But if they believe this is a calling from God, I'm sure God will guide them.

AL GARCILAZO

Senior Chaplain

Glendale Adventist Medical Center


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