A leading member of the clergy in Karachi has said that despite a record five ordinations in a single day on Sunday, the city – and Pakistan as a whole – still lacks priests.
“This is just the beginning,” Father Benjamin Shahzad, rector of the national seminary, said of the new ordinations. “We are not expecting a huge impact since about 30 percent of the priests here are aged above 70. Things get stuck when others get sick.”
He was speaking on the feast of Immaculate Conception of Mary which marked the ordination at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday. Three bishops concelebrated the mass.
Karachi continues to suffer a shortage of local ordinations while some of the parishes are still served by just one priest. Church analysts blame a lack of interest from parents, a secluded seminary life and cosmopolitan culture in Pakistan’s largest city.
The archdiocese, formed in 1950, ordained its first local priest just a year ago.
“Many priests are invited from their congregations to conduct Sunday masses – they are only visitors and cannot contribute much to parish life,” said Fr Shahzad. “The new priests will shoulder existing ministries in the larger parishes. They won’t be able to kick off new projects.”
To bring in new recruits, the Catholic Church organizes annual vocation camps in every diocese of the country with parish-based vocation committees playing an active role in inviting them.
“The new priests are well trained in computer wizardry and thus more closely associated with young people, many of whom are in contact with them through social media,” said Fr Benny Travas, vicar general.
The Church is aiming to put three priests in each community, he added, as still many people are not being reached: “This is affecting pastoral work, our ministries and other parish activities.”