May 17, 2022
Recently, I attended the ordination of five priests for the Diocese of Kisii. True to the Kenyan culture, the Mass was scheduled to begin at 10:00am when it was closer to 11:30am before it started. It lasted over three and one-half hours; I left during the announcements. Bottled water was passed out freely among the priests who were concelebrating the Mass.
The five newly ordained have been added to the current 69 diocesan priests (active and retired) who serve the Diocese of Kisii. The Diocese of Kisii has twenty-nine parishes, and each parish has anywhere from ten to forty outstations (what some would call Mission Parishes). In terms of population, there are 722,775 Catholics within the diocese which encompasses 847 square miles, meaning that there are 91,263 Catholics per square mile, and one priest for every 9,767 Catholics.
The Diocese of Bismarck is preparing to ordain five priests next month. Currently, there are around 80 priests serving in the diocese (70 diocesan, active and retired, and ten religious order). The Diocese of Bismarck has ninety-seven parishes and missions. In terms of population, there are 61,862 Catholics scattered over 34,773 square miles, meaning there are 178 Catholics per square miles, and one priest for every 773 people. (Note, please review the statistics for the Diocese of Kisii.)
In terms of counties in North Dakota, Bowman County in the southwest corner of the state consists of 1,167 square miles; Williams County in the northwest part of the state consists of 2,077 square miles. Burleigh County, the seat of the state capitol, Bismarck, comprises 1,633 square miles; Renville County in the north-central part of the state comprises 877 square miles (the approximate size of the Diocese of Kisii).
On Sundays, a priest in the Diocese of Kisii will usually celebrate at least three Masses and has permission to celebrate up to five according to guidelines issued by the Kenyan Conference of Catholic Bishops. I have heard of priests celebrating five Masses on feasts such as Christmas and Easter; he would begin around 5:00am and probably finish around five in the afternoon.
On Sundays, I usually celebrate three Masses—at 7:00am, 9:00am, and 11:00am—at three different outstations. Traveling time may vary according road conditions, but I generally leave my house at 6:30am and return around 1:00pm. A ‘usual’ Sunday Mass lasts around one and one-half hours, sometimes up to two hours. On special occasions such as First Communion and Confirmation, the Mass will be closer to three hours long.
What might these statistics say about the distribution of priests in dioceses throughout the world? Is it a matter of charity and justice to share in the burden of dioceses with so few priests and so many Catholics? Do we sense that we have a responsibility to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life and share these vocations?