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Monday, April 13, 2009

"Archbishop wants 30 priests"

From the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian
By Vernon Khelawan

The Roman Catholic Church in Trinidad and Tobago is in need of more than two dozen priests. Archbishop Edward Gilbert said, “I need 30 priests in the coming years.” And this “is realisable,” he added. He made the impassioned plea to a full church during his homily at the annual Chrismal Mass last week at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Port-of-Spain. Because of the shortage of priests, several parishes in the Archdiocese are without resident parish priests and the congregations are forced to make do with abbreviated Communion services on weekends instead of the complete Holy Mass.

Making the situation even more difficult, is that many of the local priests are aged and a number are ill and the church is forced to depend on the assistance of many of the retired men of the cloth. Two decades ago the Catholic Church in T&T had close to 100 priests to satisfy the spiritual needs of 65 parishes throughout the country. Today that number has dwindled to just about 70, in spite of the addition of several from North America and India. The Archbishop told the congregation the laity had an important part to play in realising vocations, since these vocations to the priesthood or religious life had to come from families and such desires among the young must be encouraged.

A church source said T&T was not the only country suffering from lack of priests and that compounds the situation of the availability of priests. Even when the Archdiocese is lucky to get a foreign priest, the work permit is only valid for three years. Archbishop Gilbert, however, took the opportunity to thank all his priests, local, foreign and visiting—for their ministry, “especially those who are not well and/or ageing.”

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