Where is the shortage of priests worst?


Advent blessings to all.

I’m very interested to know where the priestly vocations ‘crisis’ is worst, and why. I’d like to know what people’s impressions are where they live, whether in the USA or Europe. Statistics aren’t really everything are they?

I have another question but I’ll post separately as it’s a different topic.


Ireland here, and it is really starting to show.

The Bishop of Limerick recently announced that many churches would now have fortnightly masses only .


Here in Kerry?


The religious orders eg Franciscans, have been deeply at the heart of parish life for decades but they are not renewing either .

When I came to Ireland, over 15 years ago, there was mass at every church, 10 am Saturday morning and daily mass everywhere.
Now that is rare…

It seems to have happened so swiftly.

I pass one newish church when I go to Mizen, now in disuse … a sad sight

The permanent diaconate has been slow to establish but is in progress,

Please be aware I am in a deeply rural area and things may be very different in eg Dublin, Cork and other cities,

Certainly there is still daily mass in the Cathedral in Killarney.


I’m very grateful for your input.

I grew up in England ~~ once upon a time nearly all the priests in England came over generously from Ireland.

The catholic-hierarchy website seems to show that in Ireland there are aout 600 to 1000 Catholics per priest, while in Brazil and Argentina it can go up to 8000-12,000 Catholics per priest.

Why do you think it feels like a shortage in Ireland?


In the parishes where I live there may be 1800-6000 ‘families’ listed per priest. I am in a smaller, Eastern Catholic parish, where mercifully we have but one Sunday Divine Liturgy, not several.

To quote an Eastern Orthodox priest I know, a priest should have ideally 150 souls to minister to.

So the shortage is grave. Maybe everywhere.


I live in France, and will admit first off that my experiences in this realm are limited.

Though he doesn’t speak of this topic in comparative terms with other countries, my parish priest says the situation here is urgent. At the archdiocesan seminary there are only six men studying for the priesthood at the moment, so his observation does seem to be borne out by that fact alone. Roughly 20 priests die each year in this archdiocese, yet we only ordain one to four in the same period.

According to Catholic-Hierarchy.org, there was one priest in the diocese for 946 Catholics in 1970. As of 2013, the ratio was one to 2,488. Apparently this statistic is better than many places, but as the OP pointed out, statistics aren’t really everything. They don’t tell the whole story.

My suburban territorial parish has three churches, the result of clustering due to the shortage of priests. This is my first such experience in a lifetime of Catholicism. My priest says managing the needs of the three churches is the most difficult part of his mission. The rural areas are much worse off, with one priest for 20 or more churches, each of which was once an individual parish. There have been suicides among the clergy in other French dioceses, particularly among those who have been priests for only a few years, due to the overwhelming amount of work put on a single priest because there just aren’t enough of them. It has become common enough an occurrence that the national press has reported on it.

France may not have the worst priest shortage in the world statistically, but judging by these examples things are indeed quite dire. :frowning:


Not sure what you mean? When I was first here there was a priest and often 2 or 3 curates in each parish… See now…

Not going by stats but by seeing the difference between then and now. You cannot compare Ireland with Brazil ! You really cannot… Shortage translates to tradition,

And I would disagree with that figure for here. wildly out. Wonder how they arrived at that and when?
Oh and yes, after the Famine the whole idea was to populate the world with Irish priests . It was planned.
Did you read the links by the way?


Here, we got a lot of priest from Nigeria, Poland, India and Ireland. The Polish priests are sprouting up like weeds and I see a lot from India too. Of course, we do have Southern priests and they are fairly common here but there just aren’t a lot of Catholics in the deep south.


I can tell you a story about a man from our parish.

He was studying for the priesthood in our local Seminary. The Seminary also serves every diocese in MI. This man got to know men from other dioceses, ones that have few vocations than Detroit has.

So he started to think about becoming a priest in one of those diocese instead. He still felt called to the diocesan priesthood, but wanted to go where he was most needed.

He thought some more, and investigaged other diocese in the US. He looked at Alaska, which is really short of priests.

He then expanded his search worldwide, with a desire to go to the diocese that was in the most need of priests.

He found one that had not had an ordination since 1979. He decided to seek to become a priest for the Diocese of Mogadishu, Somalia…

There were some challenges, such as there is no bishop for the diocese, the last one being killed in 1989, and the Cathedral itself is a ruin.

The Diocese is under the administration of the Bishop of Djibouti. So he applied there, was accepted, and finished his priestly studies in Africa. He has been since ordained a priest of the Diocese of Mogadishu and works in Djibouti in a Somali resettlement village near the border. In addition to running a parish of 12 people ( all French), he teaches the Somalis trade skills such as welding and small engine repair ( he was an engineer before becoming a priest).

Pray for Fr Mark.

Pics of Fr Mark’s parish


I live in Utah with a large Hispanic Catholic population so we have priests from El Salvador. Mexico, a few from Irelsnd that have retired and even one from India. There seems to be a shortage of English speaking priests here, and some large parishes have only one priest. It seems to be common for some of the retired priests to stay at the parish they were assigned so they can still say Mass at their parish and sub for others. People have complained about the shortage of English speaking priests, but their doesn’t seem to be too many vocations here.


I live in one of the fastest growing dioceses in the US. We have many priests from Nigeria, India and South America. Also some Polish priests. We regularly open new churches and we have some churches staffed by religious order priests, particularly Jesuits and Franciscans. We also have mission parishes with two or three assigned to one priest, but these are very small parishes.


Many thanks for your observations, very interesting.

You’re right, the statistical comparisons don’t give the full picture: catholic-hierarchy takes data from the Annuarium Pontificium, comparing number of Catholics registered in the diocese to number of diocesan and religious priests in the diocese (though not just the active and resident ones, ALL the living priests incardinated there). The stats also don’t take into account how far apart the Catholics live, how many attend, etc.

I’m extremely grateful for these responses, many thanks. There seem to be similarities between the European experiences (France, Ireland, and Italy is a similar picture) and US experiences (foreign priests, language issues).

Oh, I almost forgot ~ yes, many thanks for the links. I’d already seen the Kerry one.


What a fascinating story, thank you. What a vocation. God be praised!


I know up here in Quebec, Canada- we are getting a fair number of priests from the African countries. In North America in general the vocations have gone down because families aren’t having as large families as they used to (you can thank all of the birth control methods and high cost of living for that aspect.) Secondly families weren’t properly catechized so that when parents hear that their son wants to become a priest, it is highly discouraged. The same thing happens for the vocations into the religious orders as well.

We just don’t have a high population that believes in God anymore and so churches across the denominational lines are dying and are struggling to stay alive.


I live in England and I don’t have exact figures but there have been and continue to be a lot of proposed mergers in my diocese. Anecdotally there aren’t a whole lot of young men or even teenage boys coming to church. At my confirmation there were about 200 candidates with around 10 boys. It’s not going to help with priestly vocations when the pool is so small to begin with.

I reckon we will get a lot of priests from abroad in the future.


Much the same as here. I think they said that in Kerry there was only one priest under 40 and the situation is of course going to worsen as more age and die.

A lot of course depends on how you define a parish priest. Here already the few are racing round from church to church simply for mass.


I come from the ‘lost generation’, the ones whose parents left the church when the V2 changes started happening. I had two cousins who wanted to be nuns, one I actually saw wearing a habit but her parents ‘rescued’ her. I remember her being very unhappy about that, but she eventually married. The other is still single, in her 50’s.


France has the “relais” system and I wonder how that is helping?


Any website where I can statistics of priest and nuns?


What this means and what those active in it actually do appears to vary from parish to parish. I don’t even know what our relais committee does, since every time I ask the members for something they ignore me. :shrug:


Probably anywhere in Western Europe, especially France.

I’m from Poland and we still get enough vocations to “export” priests to struggling countries. I know that something like 30%+ priests in Scandinavia are Polish and now we’re starting to fill the gaps in the US. I’m considering the priesthood myself. :thumbsup:

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