Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bishop Harrington discusses joys, challenges of shepherding a rural diocese

Demographics may be the biggest challenge to bishops in rural-dominant dioceses. Dwindling priest numbers have a part to play in the struggle as well. Bishop Bernard J. Harrington of Winona, who was ordained a priest 50 years ago for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said he fairly reveled in the ordination a year ago of four priests for the diocese in southwestern Minnesota. "Four priests ordained for Winona is like 40 priests ordained for Detroit," he said during an April 23 interview with Catholic News Service at St. John Church in Rochester. Even so, the news is not all good. "I'm still a priest short" for the upcoming round of clergy reassignments, Bishop Harrington said. Many of the diocese's parishes are already in cluster arrangements, sharing the service of one priest. Bishop Harrington said Catholics in his diocese must face the fact of a growing Hispanic presence in the diocese. He said demographic data made available to him indicate there are some 36,000 Hispanics living in the Winona Diocese. He added that immigrant Hispanics are lured by the promise of work in the pork industry. Archbishop Jerome G. Hanus of Dubuque, Iowa, is also aware of the Hispanic presence in his northeastern Iowa see. The 30-county archdiocese also has clustered parishes to account for the shrinking number of priests and has also closed others deemed too small to stay open. Catholic News Service

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