Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Power outage rocks campus
Power outage rocks campus
Jack Brandt September 13, 2023

Creative solutions to the priest shortage in the Amazon

By Annie Wheeler

Catholics at Augustana have the privilege to attend weekly mass, led by an ordained priest, where they can maintain and deepen their faith. Amazonian Catholics are not so fortunate, sometimes going months without seeing a priest.
There is a shortage of priests in the Amazon region. Catholics gather for worship services, but often these services cannot be called Mass because the man in the white robe is not an ordained priest. This problem presents a great opportunity for the Roman Catholic Church to modernize and reform.
Recognizing this need, Pope Francis called together a Synod, a gathering of Bishops, for the pan-Amazon region. He called upon the gathered bishops to “speak with courage.”
So they did. Among the proposals laid out in the working document were to allow elders in the community who may have an established family to become ordained priests and to expand the role of women in church leadership.
“Allowing priests to marry in the Latin Rite would be an incredible step in embracing a secular view of the Catholic priesthood as a job or a simple function carried out in the visible society that is the Catholic Church,” Father Jeremy Freehill of Augustana said.
He disagrees with the proposal of married men being permitted to be ordained priests. He also holds a conservative view on the role of women in the church. Meanwhile, Pope Francis had this to say about women in the church:
“I would just like to underscore this: that we have not yet understood what the woman signifies in the Church and we limit ourselves only to the functional aspect … the role of women in the Church goes well beyond functionality. And more work must continue on this,” Pope Francis said in his closing speech to the Synod.
This is a step in the right direction. The fact that the Catholic church is pushing for reform is a good sign. For too long people have been driven away from the church. I think that Pope Francis now recognizes that they need to start bringing people closer again.
As for the idea that married men could become priests, this is not actually a new phenomenon, although it is rare. The Eastern Rite already allows married men to become ordained priests. One outcome of the Synod is to create an Amazon Rite, so that the church can be more creative in expanding in a way that is customized to the region.
Therefore, this does not mean that the entire Roman Catholic church will be given the same rights. By creating the Amazon Rite, Pope Francis is recognizing the need to find a solution that will work just for that region.
“I do believe the Catholic Church could fulfill her missionary mandate from the Lord Jesus himself and her pastoral duty to the Amazon region by distributing priests from other regions to it,” Father Freehill said.
Clearly, there are multiple ways of solving this problem. In his closing speech, Pope Francis raised concerns about priests who refuse to visit remote locations. It seems he echoes Father Jeremy’s proposal to redistribute priests throughout the country.
Pope Francis knows that the most important ingredient to problem solving is zeal.
“In order to reform, it is necessary that there be no lack of zeal,” he said.
By gathering together and talking openly about the challenges at hand, we can find creative solutions. We should not be afraid to pose creative solutions. Speak bravely with zeal.
Cartoon by Annie Wheeler

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Creative solutions to the priest shortage in the Amazon