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Cleric's Suicide Linked to Pressures of Priest's Job

July 28, 2001|From the Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The workload of Roman Catholic priests has drawn greater attention in Iowa since the suicide of Father Mark Swanson.

The shortage of priests in the state and nationwide is creating a burden for clergy. As of 1999, only 54 of the 85 parishes in the Diocese of Davenport had resident priests, according to church statistics.

Swanson, 55, served 1,500 people in three parishes.

Swanson's schedule included Masses at each parish every Saturday and Sunday in addition to several Masses during the week. He also ministered to nursing homes in Wellman and Kalona, and presided at funerals and weddings.

He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound July 6. The diocese said he had suffered from depression.

"Priests, as a group, are people who are willing to work hard," said Father Drake Shafer, vicar general of the Diocese of Davenport. "We have our share of workaholics. We'd like it if they were more reasonable about living a healthy lifestyle."

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