Priest shortage leaves over 3,500 churches without resident priest

Priest shortage impacting local churches
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 8:48 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 20, 2023 at 8:20 PM EST
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HARTFORD, Conn. (WFSB) - When Bishop Juan Miguel Betancourt was in seminary school, he was told there was a major need for Catholic priests.

“The conversations have been going on for a while now,” said Betancourt.

The conversation continues but the problem is growing in our communities.

Now the Auxillary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Betancourt is trying to find a solution.

“We have to do everything possible,” Bishop Betancourt added.

According to the Center of Applied Research in the Apostolate, the number of priests nationwide is down 60% in the last 50 years.

This means more than 3,500 churches without a resident pastor.

When it comes to the archdiocese of Hartford, 50 priests have left active ministry since 2017 with another 35 expected to retire before 2030.

“You see how our priests are spreading thin,” Bishop Betancourt noted.

Parishioners are noticing too, like Una Woods.

“Oh, there is an issue because I have, for instance the church I belong in West Hartford, we don’t have a priest,” said Una. “We need more priests.”

It’s becoming more common in Connecticut.

Priests having to rotate to several churches in their community.

The push to recruit is on, but it is tough.

This is a major commitment.

Bishop Betancourt believes a growing distrust in society’s major institutions began decades ago, including in the church.

Scandals and the child abuse crisis has had heavy impacts on the Catholic Church financially and with recruitment.

Priests also have to go through five to seven years of school and cannot marry.

“All of these things have contributed and now we’re experiencing in a very strong way the effects of it,” said Bishop Betancourt. “It’s going to be a challenge, a very big one.”

“We say a prayer at the end of the mass for the priests,” Una said.

Prayer and recruitment, but Bishop Betancourt says this’ll get worse before it gets better.