Well, one thing for sure is that the physical availability of clergy to the rural areas would be mitigated. That’s a good thing if one believes reasonable physical connection to a pastor is a desirable situation. Since I have always belonged to a larger parish this has not been an issue.
Regarding Deacons, good question. The ArchDioceses of Indiana were some of the last to ordain Deacons. Now we have dozens of them. Is this good? I think so, but there also are times where it is clear that they are not seen as the same shepherd as a priest. My best friend was just ordained with twenty others in Indianapolis this last June. I know that he will be a great minister in the faith…so using him as my guidepost I think we are better for it. But why Indiana waited so long before ordaining deacons could well mean that there was resistance by the hierarchy.
The issue of shortage is tactical in nature…it depends. A large parish’s pastor’s calendar is truly an awesome undertaking. Our Pastor retires in one year and the size of our parish (1,700 families) has always allowed for us to have one pastor and one (usually newer) priest-in-training. The priests also serve our 250 student grade and middle school. So, while I can see that dedicated pastors shepherding well run parishes are certainly making a difference, the actual call to be Catholic is a call to Service through ministries. It is those ministries, again if engaging appropriately that can effect attendance with their evangelism and opportunity for those who have strayed away to serve.