My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Traditionally, June is the time of priest transfers in our Diocese. Re-assignments bring with them the sadness of parting and the freshness of new beginnings for both priests and parishioners.
This June, there will be an unusually large number of transfers and other episcopal appointments. I am deeply aware of the amount of change and readjustment this brings to the lives of our priests and to our parishes. The significant personnel changes this year are due to a number of factors:
- Nine retirements of seasoned pastors representing 448 years of priestly service given;
- Over the past seven months, three priests have left active ministry. Each of these men had been ordained for fewer than five years. This is a potential loss of 131 years of future service;
- One Ordination to the Priesthood in June (one priest also was ordained in January).
As a result, for the first time in the 60-year history of our Diocese, there are fewer than 100 active diocesan priests (92) to serve our parishes, schools, and institutions. In 1961, the year our Diocese was founded, there were 283 active diocesan priests.
I am so grateful to the noble priests who have served our Diocese for so long — some many years beyond retirement age — and now will be continuing their Priesthood in emeritus (retired) status. In some cases, a pastor also has been assigned the pastoral care of another nearby parish, and I cannot adequately express my gratitude to them for agreeing to this additional assignment.
It speaks highly of the caliber of our priests that all those being reassigned are doing so with a disposition of willingness that goes far beyond the duty of obedience. We have so many examples of priestly sacrifice for which to give thanks. I express my deep thanks to all of you, the faithful, for your patience with these transfers, for loving and supporting the priests who are leaving, and for welcoming those who will be arriving in June.
We rejoice in the two Ordinations in the first six months of this year. At the same time, it is a mathematical certainty that two Ordinations cannot offset the loss of twelve priests. We currently have fourteen young men studying for the Priesthood, far fewer than required for future needs.
Therefore, in this Year of the Real Presence, I ask you to go frequently before the Most Blessed Sacrament, Christ really present in the Holy Eucharist, and beg Him to send generous young men to answer the call to the Priesthood. This is the task of each one of us: to encourage a generous response to a vocation in the hearts of our young men and their parents. Before the Most Blessed Sacrament, seek to identify a young man in your parish and tell him you see in him a potential vocation. Encourage parents to be generously supportive of a son who expresses a desire to enter the seminary. Pray for our current seminarians that they continue to discern and deepen their call to the priestly vocation.
The Lord of the Harvest will bless us abundantly, but we must do our part to cultivate a culture of vocation awareness and response in our families, parishes, schools, and religious education programs. As we celebrate sixty years as a Diocese, we can be certain of Our Lord’s continued rich blessings. The greatest blessing will be a flourishing of priestly vocations for future generations in our five counties.
Wishing you and your families an abundance of blessings that flow from the Real Presence of Christ, the Great High Priest, I am,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Alfred A. Schlert
Bishop of Allentown