Where are the Priests?

 World wide in 2007  there was approximately one  priest for every 2800 Catholics (1-2800).  How does this vary around the globe?  In the United States currently it stands around 1 – 1500.  So  if one thinks the priest shortage is serious in the U.S,  with our aging priests and declining numbers,  we are still better off than most  other places including places that are sending priests to the U.S.

 In Brazil, the largest Catholic country in the world, the ratio is 1- 8600.   In the Philippines, with the largest Catholic population in Asia,  that goes up to 1 – 9400. India, on the other hand, is the exception with a very favorable ratio of 1-860.

 As many Catholics know from parishes in the U.S., many priests come to the United States from Africa.  Yet the ratio in Africa is estimated to be 1 – 4200.  In Nigeria, booming with priestly vocations, and with seminaries filled,  the ratio is 1 – 3820. So one might ask if  priests should be coming from Africa to the U.S.  or  should the U.S. be sending priests to Africa? 

 And what about Western Europe?  Vocations to the priesthood have greatly diminished, but it still  has  a ratio about the same as the United States 1 - 1400.  Italy  is even stronger, with 1 - 1136 ratio. 

 Is there any ideal ratio of priest to laity?  One  major yardstick  is the availability of the priest for Mass.   A parish in the U.S. with a large church building can have 2000 parishioners at one Mass (and the priest may be assisted by a deacon and a chorus of lay ministers) .  On the other hand,  a priest in Africa may have one small church that can hold 200, but  then have to travel to 20 different outstations for Masses, meaning that his parishioners can only have Mass once a month.

There have been several attempts by the Vatican, as in the encyclical of Pope Pius XII in 1957  Fidei Donum,  to redistribute priests, but only with limited success. And that is another story.

(Historical Footnote:  The Priest-laity ratio in the U.S. -  A brief look back. -- in the United States in 1903 it was 1- 870.   The best ratio was 1942 with one priest for every 617 Catholics.  Since then   the growth of the Catholic population has exceeded  that of the priesthood. In 1962   it was 1 – 771. In 1985 it was 1 – 93. In  2000,  it was 1 – 1257. Now it is about  1-1500 and getting worse.)




Claire Mathieu
7 years 2 months ago
Do those numbers include retired priests? Only diocesan priests, or also priests in religious orders? When a priest from one diocese, say in India, is visiting another diocese, say in the US, for years, is he tallied in the US count or in India?
Stephen Murray
7 years 1 month ago
It's your own damned fault.  We've ("laity") tried to tell you for centuries but you have spurned the Holy Spirit in us and have lamely attempted to go it on your own. 
Jim McCrea
7 years 1 month ago
There are many who have a vocation to the priesthood.  The problem is an institutional failure to test out these vocations because of marital status/"plumbing problems"
You want an old boys network?  That's what we have:  an OLD BOYS network.
Luckily it will die out soon and then maybe the Holy Spirit will be allowed to have Her say.
Molly Roach
7 years 1 month ago
What Steve said.

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