PITTSBURGH — The Rev. David Bonnar was one of eight priests ordained by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1988. This year, there may be two; in 1999, there will be none, perhaps a first for this century.
But Pittsburgh, with 371 active priests compared with 467 just 10 years ago, isn't alone. Nationwide, for every 100 men enrolled in Catholic seminaries in 1965, there are only 40 today, said Dean Hoge, a sociology professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington.
And the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University reported that from 1970 to 1995, seminary enrollment in the United States dropped by half.
Hoge blamed the requirement of celibacy for the decline and estimated that enrollment would quadruple if priests were allowed to marry.
Although Catholics believe that men are called to the priesthood by God, they're getting a little help from Bonnar. He is director of vocations for the diocese, responsible for recruiting candidates for the priesthood.
To that end, the diocese is emphasizing the responsibility of each parish to identify and encourage possible candidates for the priesthood. Priests and seminarians visit schools and parishes to share their experiences.
The diocese is also producing a video for men of high school and college age detailing the priestly life. And Bishop Donald Wuerl will issue a pastoral letter later in the year on religious vocations.
Bonnar said he isn't panicking, even though Pittsburgh's 218 parishes "can always use more hands and more hearts."
"God has not stopped calling."