My topic is rather an unwieldy one for a short presentation. How does one present a picture of the CPPS today in a relatively brief presentation? The task is, of course, quite impossible, but one can make an attempt to select some dimensions of our life that can give some sense of the rich mosaic that is the Congregation today. Keeping in mind the limitations of a presentation like this, I will try to do three things this afternoon: 1) give you some facts and figures that I think are useful in understanding where we are now and what our future might hold; 2) offer some of my interpretations of the data and some possible implications for the future; and 3) offer a summary of some recent research on priests in the United States that I think may resonate with your experience. I realize that not all of you are ordained nor do you come from North America, but I believe that at least some of this material may be relevant to you. This last section may appear to be somewhat off the topic, but I believe that the content may describe some of the issues facing us throughout the world. The last section does, I submit, form part of the picture of the CPPS today. I hope in a special way that the material in the third section will stimulate reflection and dialogue among all of us during our week together.
1. THE FACTS
Had there been a workshop of this kind when I was a newly ordained member of the Congregation in 1972, this presentation and indeed this workshop would have been quite different.
For one thing, we were a larger congregation then: 767 members. We have 526 members today. It was a time of great – and sometimes wrenching – change: the number of members had dropped from a high of 903 in 1965 to 767 in 1972. More than half of that decline was due to the departure of 78 members from the Congregation. In other words, in 7 years we lost nearly 9% of our members through departure.
The principal languages spoken would have been English, Italian, and German; there were few native Spanish-speaking members then. There would have been no Africans, Poles, Indians, Peruvians, or Guatemalans among the participants.