Dressed in simple white robes, 18 men will be ordained Saturday priests for the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, the largest group since 1973.
Church officials view the new class as a sign of hope because it is twice the size of classes in recent years, and is the start of a slight trend upward in new ordinations. About 12 and 15 men will be ordained in the next two years, compared to classes of only seven or eight in the recent past.
The number of new ordinations is important because overall, the Catholic Church in the United States has seen an increasing shortage of priests over the past two decades. Even the new upsurge in ordinations will not be enough to stem it; the shortage is expected to get dramatically worse as the large seminary classes of the 1950s and 1960s approach retirement.
Those being ordained are a comparatively young group, with the three oldest in their early 40s, the youngest 26. The infusion of youth and the greater variety of backgrounds in the class is an encouragement for Boston’s Catholic priests, who are seeing their average age creep up to 55 or 56 as the Catholic population changes, especially with an influx of new immigrants.
The reasons given for choosing the priesthood remain constant: a desire to serve others, and help bring them the comfort and certainty of their religion.