Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Line Continues

River City, the Third Saturday of May....

In a tradition stretching back to 1853 and the hands of the nation's lone bishop-saint, that could only mean one thing. And so, even amid an epic tide of trials and transformation, the "long black line" continued on here earlier today as, in his first turn at the rite, the Ninth Archbishop ordained six new priests.

The sextet are part a national ordinandi class that, all told, holds at just shy of 500 new priests for the nation's dioceses and religious orders for the year. While 2012's figure of 487 "potential ordinands" is roughly consistent with last year's, the number of new US priests has increased 21 percent since 2008, according to CARA figures.

As local numbers go, leading the pack among the dioceses are two usual suspects of recent years: Archbishop John Myers of Newark ordained 16 men today for New Jersey's 1.3 million-member lead fold, while Cardinal Francis George of Chicago priested 14 of his own last week.

On the flip-side, meanwhile, three members of an announced class of seven new priests for the archdiocese of Hartford mysteriously vanished in the run-up to Ordination Day, and for the first time in memory, just one man was ordained this morning for the nation's second-largest diocese -- the 2.5 million-member New York church. (Keeping with Gotham custom, a second priest was likewise ordained at this morning's rites in St Patrick's Cathedral, but for the Bronx-based Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.) Elsewhere on the map, Milwaukee's class of seven represents the Beer City's largest crop in two decades, while in the Rose City, the archdiocese of Portland's ten candidates, to be ordained June 9th, will reportedly be the Oregon church's largest group ever.

All that said, it's worth noting that 2012's largest ordination group for an ecclesial circumscription on these shores belongs not to any time-honored outpost, but the new kid on the block. Thanks to the recent establishment of the Anglican Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter and its unique circumstances, the nationwide entity comprising no more than a few thousand souls will welcome somewhere between 30 and 60 new priests over the remainder of this year as freshly-"Poped" Episcopal clergy are cleared for orders and commissioned following the new body's Vatican-approved program of rapid, mostly online formation conducted by Houston's St Mary's Seminary and University of St Thomas.

As previously noted, the Chair's first priestly ordination is slated to take place on June 3rd in South Carolina, with several others quickly to follow. Given the priest crunch in no shortage of US locales, the Ordinariate clerics -- most of them married -- are likely to take on secondary assignments or be sought out for coverage duty in the Latin-church dioceses where they reside. In exchange for the added manpower, at least several US bishops are pitching in to aid the priests and the Houston-based start-up alike by, among other things, providing health insurance and other benefits for their local Ordinariate clergy and their families.

Coming back to where we started, though, from this morning's hometown rites, here's the full ordination preach from Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap.:

On a related note, as if the pressing challenges on the new archbishop's plate weren't already enough, in a column issued prior to today's ordinations, Chaput pledged a thorough remaking of the formation program at St Charles Borromeo Seminary, Overbrook, where the appointment of a new Rector is reportedly to be announced in the coming weeks.

PHOTO: Catholic Standard and Times File