Dear friends in Christ:
This weekend (Saturday) marks my 28th anniversary of priestly ordination! It has been a wonderful 28 years. I have not done everything perfectly and have a long list of mistakes, but I have also learned a lot, grown a lot and have received more blessings than I can count. Since my ordination I was an Assistant Pastor here and at St. Martha’s in Kingwood, Administrator at Queen of Peace, Vice Chancellor for the Archdiocese for 12 years and served as pastor at the Co-Cathedral and for the last nine years here at SJV. Each assignment has brought its own challenges, joys, struggles and blessings.
When I returned here in 2008 following Fr. Morfin’s retirement, there were two assistants: Fr. Jose and Fr. Gregorio. They were both international priests and each was soon transferred and subsequently returned to their home countries. For the last eight years, we have been blessed with Fr. Chuck and for five years with Fr. Dan as priests in residence. During this time, we have been blessed with the help of Msgr. James Anderson, Frs. Frank Whittouck SCJ, Antonio Curto, CP, Jim Blocher, CSB, Nathaniel Haslam, LC and Eamonn Shelly, LC along with other priests to help with weekend masses. Over the years, I have not asked for an assistant as we have such a great staff, wonderful deacons, dedicated parishioner volunteers and sufficient outside priests to cover everything. Having served in the chancery, I am acutely aware of the priest shortage we face. I did not feel it proper to ask for an assistant when in our archdiocese, we have priests over 80 years old still working and other parishes with no priests at all. The current vocations situation is grim and getting worse. “The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few, beg the harvest master for laborers for his harvest.” Lk 10.2. We need at least seven new priests every year to maintain staffing at the level we had in the year 2000. We have averaged only three ordinations per year since 2000. Every year we continue to fall further behind. This year we will ordain four men to the priesthood, but we have two religious communities withdrawing from the archdiocese due to the shortage of personnel. During this same time the Catholic population has dramatically increased while the number of active priests has decreased. In the year 2000, the ratio of Catholics to priest was 2,078 to 1 in the archdiocese. In 2017, the ratio is now 3,846/1. In 1976, the year I entered the seminary, the ratio was 979/1. Yet these numbers are deceptive as they count all priests including those who are retired, sick or work outside of parishes. The ratio of Catholics to active parish priests is much worse! Here at SJV, the ratio is 15,000/1.
“The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few, beg the harvest master for laborers for his harvest.”
Over the last three years, Fr. Chuck and I have each been hospitalized twice. Thankfully, we are both doing well. This year, I will turn 60 and Fr. Chuck will turn 70. Needless to say, neither of us has the energy we did when we were 29!
Last year, when I was ill for over two months and unable to fulfill all my duties, I prayed and thought seriously about what I should be doing and what needed to be done for the parish. This is a great parish and I thought it would be beneficial for a priest to experience what I have been so blessed to have in my life – YOU! I then spoke to the chancery officials and asked that our parish be considered to have a Parochial Vicar assigned. I asked that if possible that the priest assigned have some Spanish as mine is so poor. The available priests are very few and the archdiocese’s needs are very great. When I learned that the Franciscans who staff all of the churches in Galveston (5) and Port Bolivar (1) were leaving the archdiocese, I subsequently told the chancery folks that if there were no priests available that we could continue to carry on as we have been. I have recently learned that my request is being considered but that NO final decision has been made.
I ask that you please continue to pray for all priests and seminarians; especially the priests that so generously help us and the seminarians from our parish: Justin Cormie, Rick Arriola and David Ramirez for the Archdiocese, Paolo Puccini, CSP with the Paulist Fathers and Francisco Enriquez with the Diocese of El Paso. Additionally we pray for Deacon Mark Fryer, S.J., the son of Priscilla and Clay Fryer of our parish, who will be ordained to the priesthood next month. Please also pray for the young women from our parish in formation: Alexia Zaldivar and Katie Lowe.
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately