Dear Friends in Christ:
There were three recent events here at the parish that made an impression on me. Recently our Young Adult Ministry hosted a gathering that addressed various matters. I was able to listen to these 20 and 30 somethings. It was most fascinating, helpful and inspiring to hear from these committed young adult Catholics. Then I was able to be with hundreds of our parishioners for the Listening Session who gathered at the Activity Center on Monday, Feb 4 to address the issue of sexual misconduct with minors by members of the clergy. While this was a difficult issue, I was again inspired by the faith, commitment and concern of so many of our parishioners. Lastly, I was able to spend a few days last week with some of our staff on retreat. I do not think I have to mention to you how blessed we are here at St. John Vianney to have such a wonderful and dedicated group of people serving our parish community. Each of them is a blessing to us. Again, I walked away inspired by their dedication and faith.
It happens with great frequency that people with every good intention, make a request that they want either Fr. Clark or myself to be at something or do something. That is wonderful and please keep asking, but please remember and keep in mind that we have 15,000 parishioners and only two priests! I have been at this a lot longer than Fr. Clark (although he is smarter and better looking!) but neither of us had classes in the seminary on how to bi-locate (being at two different places at the same time). So many times, people ask so many wonderful things that I wish I could bi-locate or even tri-locate. Sadly, that is not one of the gifts bestowed at priestly ordination. The solution of course is not bi-location, it is more priestly vocations. The more good priests we have, the better for all of us. Please keep praying for many more men to answer God’s call. To help put things in perspective, when I entered the seminary the ratio of priests to Catholics in the archdiocese was 1:950. Today the ratio is 1:4000 and the number of parishes is roughly the same. That means the parishes are much larger with more people and larger staffs to manage. As you can see, at SJV the ratio is almost double the average for the archdiocese. But we are indeed blessed with a talented staff and so many dedicated and generous parishioners!
Along those lines, people will sometimes ask why we do not have any religious sisters here at SJV. The answer is in the numbers. In 1970, there were 161,000 religious sisters in the U.S. Today there are only 45,000 sisters. That is a huge drop. The number of priests over the same period of time has dropped from 61,000 to 37,000. That too is a huge decrease but not as dramatic as among the sisters. The average age of religious sisters in the U.S. is 74. On the good news side of things, we have seen a small and steady increase in the numbers of seminarians and priestly ordinations over the last two decades. Unfortunately, there has been no similar increase among women religious. Happily, there are still young women who are answering God’s call. One is from our parish, Sr. Alexia Zaldivar! We also have five seminarians from SJV: Michael Noriega, David Ramirez, Paolo Puccini, Justin Cormie and Rick Arriola. Please pray for these young people and that their numbers may grow.
Lest we forget, we also have deacons! Currently, of the four deacons in the parish, three of them are retired (Dale, Fred & Al). Only Deacon Greg is actively assigned to the parish although the others graciously assist. We have two men from the parish in diaconate formation (David Wirfs and Doug Birkbeck) and three more who have just begun the discernment process (Joe Barber, Charlie Vatterott and Tom Williams). Please keep these men, their wives and families in your prayers.
In pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately