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Catholic Clergy Grows Older, Fewer Young Priests Step In - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Catholic Clergy Grows Older, Fewer Young Priests Step In

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A message of hope came from today's installation mass at the Vatican, but that message may be dying with much of the Catholic clergy.

The number of priests and nun are down in the Catholic Church.

"You're not going to just jump into priesthood probably," Father Christopher Markman, Parochial Vicar at Nativity Catholic Church in Fargo, said. "You're really going to think about that one."

This is one career path less traveled.

The clergy's turnover rate has been declining for decades.

"We've had to look outside of the United States, as well, for priests because sometimes we don't have enough to serve our parishes," Father Luke Meyer, Chancellor of the Diocese of Fargo said.

Since the 1960's the number of priests in the United States has decreased by a third.

"It's difficult to be a priest in our society, given some of the scandals in the past," Meyer said.

But Markman says that's just the kind of motivation some need to make a change.

"There's a real hope with priests of my generation that we can help to start heal some of that," he said.

Markman is part of the dwindling population of newly ordained priests and he admits others his age may not be lured by the job description.

"You're giving up a lot of things, you know, a family life or a job that's going to make you a lot of money," he said. "You're definitely making some sort of sacrifice."

But, there's more like him on the way.

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate says U.S. Seminaries are filling up with men who will soon be ordained.

Markman says when he entered his seminary in Rome, there were 180 men studying for priesthood. He says by the time he finished years later, the seminary was filled to capacity at 250.

The next generation may, then, offer a short-term solution for a wide-spread problem.

The Diocese of Fargo says North Dakota has an even more unique situation. They need more priests per capita because parishes in this state are so spread out.

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