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Number of local priests to remain stable as population sees growth
By Jenny Faber / Texas Catholic Herald

10/25/2011
HOUSTON — According to some estimates, the Catholic population in the Archdiocese will grow by half a million by 2020.

At the same time, data from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a national nonprofit agency that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church, suggest the number of priests available for active service in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston will remain stable for the next 30 years.

That means unlike many other dioceses in the U.S., the Archdiocese is not anticipating a decline in its number of active priests in the near future. But the explosive population growth of the region means the ratio of people in the pews to parish priests will increase by 32 percent within the next decade. How will the Archdiocese and its clergy meet the faith needs of an escalating Catholic population in the coming years?

The Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Process aims to offer information that could guide the answer to that question. The process – a year-long initiative to develop a vision of how the Archdiocese will grow with the next generation – has surfaced demographic data detailing the expanding size and increased diversity of the local Catholic population, which currently numbers 1.2 million.

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo confirmed that it is an Archdiocesan priority to have a pastor at every parish in the 10 counties of the local Church, and that the developing Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan will support this priority.

This past year's trends in Archdiocesan growth seem to confirm the projected population surge. This Easter, the Archdiocese welcomed 2,490 new Catholics into the Church – the second largest RCIA class in the nation – and another 1,300 adult Catholics were confirmed into the Church this spring. This August, the Archdiocese welcomed its largest class of seminarians since Vatican II.

Recognizing additional clergy are needed to meet the faith needs of local parishes, Cardinal DiNardo encourages all faithful to pray for vocations to the Archdiocese, particularly as the universal Church prepares to mark Priesthood Sunday, Oct. 30.

For more ideas on praying for vocations, visit www.houstonvocations.com. To read the prayer for the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Process, visit www.archgh.org/pastoralplan. †