Excerpts from a Pastoral Letter from Bishop Richard C. Hanifen
In a pastoral letter to Catholics in Colorado Springs diocese, Bishop Richard C. Hanifen told that priests and laity to be prepared for challenges posed by a declining number of priestly vocations.
The following are excerpts from his letter;
We are directed to believe that God will use this period of uncertainty and crisis to mold us” ---- this "calls for both prayer and trust.
Reasonable expectations for our priests must be set.
Priests need to take some time for themselves through a day of rest each week and an annual vacation and retreat.
Priests are called to be men of prayer who are expected to create sufficient time to listen and be formed by the Holy Spirit.
Priests should not be expected to celebrate Mass more than three times on a Sunday and should limit their time at other liturgical celebrations such as weddings and baptisms.
Priests need to determine the reasonable hours of service they can give to their parish, noting that some dioceses suggest 50 hours per week.
Although priests are expected to respond to emergencies, parishioners need to be aware that there are times when a priest will not be available and parishes should publish the names of people to contact on such occasions.
The parish should have a team in place to take the role of leading a Sunday celebration in the absence of a priest. The names of these team members should be submitted to the bishop, who would appoint them for a three-year period.
Such teams should be trained to provide a service that will not be confused with the celebration of the Mass but should always point to the celebration of the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith.
These services should be scheduled at the same time as regular Sunday Mass in order to retain the sense of worship and the rhythm of parish life.
To avoid the appearance of simulation of a sacrament, no service or celebration of any kind may be substituted for the sacrament of reconciliation or the sacrament of anointing the sick, although designated parish ministers could offer prayers for the sick and dying in certain circumstances.
Parishioners are to worship together in their own church on Sundays, even when Mass is not available, because other churches simply do not have room to accommodate more people.
When priests are not available for previously scheduled baptisms or weddings, deacons or other priests may take their place.
Catholics are to continue to pray for vocations and to come together on Sundays even though Mass may not be possible.