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Congratulations to The News for the light it has shone on the priest shortage in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. The stressful effects of this shortage on the remaining priests of the diocese becomes more clear with every passing year, as there are fewer and older priests to serve a growing number of Catholics.

One of the less obvious, but nonetheless painful, results of the shortage is the lack of enough priests to visit parishioners who are seriously ill at home or in the hospital. Lay chaplains bring much comfort to those in need, but if they were empowered to administer the Sacrament of the Sick, it would be even more consoling to Catholics for whom the sacraments are an integral part of their religious experience.

As those of us in the pews experience firsthand the effects of this shortage, we certainly join Bishop Henry Mansell in praying for a solution to this serious problem. Many of us believe, however, that there's no shortage of vocations, but rather, that the problem lies in an unwillingness to recognize the vocations that exist among women and married persons. We know several well-qualified men and women who would be wonderful priests if they were allowed to answer the call that they hear.

It is time for the decision-makers in the Catholic Church to listen attentively to the people of God, clergy and laity alike, and to open their hearts to the cry of the poor.


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