So often these days we read of the ongoing collapse of Catholicism in the west. In diocese after diocese we see parishes and schools closing or consolidating, a decline in priests as older clergy pass away at rates higher than new ordinations, and a widespread loss of the next generation to either the secular left or the evangelical right.
We also read of various plans to counter these trends. Everyone seems to have a program to promote, a new strategy to increase vocations, to increase weekly Mass attendance, to keep teens from fleeing the faith…
However, what’s not as widely known is that we already have a blueprint for success: the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. The problem is that few are talking about it. So let’s fix that.
First, a few facts you might not know about the Diocese of Lincoln:
According to the Official Catholic Directory and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), Lincoln, NE is the only diocese in the United States to place in the Top 20 for the ratio of ordinands to population in every survey conducted from 1993-2012.
Despite having a Catholic population of only 97,000, the Lincoln diocese ordained 22 men from 2010-2012. Only seven diocese in the entire country ordained more. One of those, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (with a Catholic population over 4.2 million) ordained 34 men during those same three years. In other words, L.A. only ordained four more men per year on average despite having a population 44X greater than Lincoln.
Bishop James Conley recently noted that, with this year’s class, the diocese will have ordained 17 men to the priesthood in a 24 month span of time; unheard of in this day and age.
As of 2012 the diocese had a total of 150 priests serving 134 parishes.