Bishop says Catholic’s involvement in church is critical

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(Host) It’s been one year since Vermont’s Catholic Bishop was ordained.

Since that time, Salvatore Matano has made it clear it’s critical for Vermont’s Catholics to become more involved in the church – and to encourage young men to enter the priesthood.

As Easter approaches the diocese is faced with an ongoing shortage of priests that has led to a decision to close or consolidate some parishes.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) When he first spoke to Vermont’s Catholics at his ordination one year ago, Vermont Bishop Salvatore Matano’s remarks contained a note of urgency as he told them that the church needed their help.

(Choir and organ music)

(Zind) Matano’s message at a mass this week was no less urgent as he asked Catholics to encourage more young people to enter the priesthood.

Matano said this wasn’t a routine request.

(Matano) ” rather it is a genuine and heartfelt request born of necessity and urgency. The Lord is asking us to take seriously the ministerial needs of our diocese with particular emphasis on the need for priests.”

(Zind) Near the end of the mass, Matano stepped into the aisle and stood before a group of young people. Almost apologetically he referred to the length of the service, and he told them if they take only one message from it, it should be to stay close to the church.

Afterward Matano outlined the steps he taking to interest young people in the priesthood. Recently he appointed a priest as principal of Vermont’s largest Catholic high school.

He’s selected another priest to talk to young people about the vocation.

(Matano) “Well I hope he visits parishes, that he visits youth groups, that he visits our schools, that he’s present to young people so they’re able to ask him questions about his life. You can’t say ‘become what you do not know.”

(Zind) In the meantime Matano continues to arrange for priests from a number of African nations to come to Vermont to help out.

Last month, the diocese announced it would close seven parishes and combine fourteen others as a result of the priest shortage. Matano says any further closings will come only as a last resort.

(Matano) “I don’t want to come as a new bishop and be known as the one who’s responsible for all these closures.”

(Zind) The institution of the priesthood has also been hurt by the numerous sexual abuse cases involving priests.

The shortage is a widespread problem across the country, even as church membership increases.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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