70 Percent of this Year’s Class Is Foreign-Born, Compared to 30 Percent Nationally
By Francesca Norsen Tate
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Several Roman Catholic dioceses around the U.S. have been reversing a shortage of priests, with a trend showing an increase in ordinations over the past several years. The Diocese of Brooklyn, which ordained 10 men to the diocesan priesthood last Saturday, is among the top-ranked.
The Diocese of Brooklyn is the eighth largest and the only entirely urban diocese in the U.S. For the third consecutive year, the Brooklyn Diocese has ordained at least 10 men to the priesthood. In 2014, the ordination class of 13 men put the diocese at the top of rankings for that year.
Nationally, the Brooklyn Diocese and other sources reported that Brooklyn ranked “among the top dioceses in the nation in terms of new priests” for the Ordination Class of 2016. However, a more precise figure was not yet available and a spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told the Brooklyn Eagle in an email on June 9 that the national statistics had not yet been compiled.
Nationally, 548 priests have been ordained so far this year during the ordination season (which is usually May/June, during the Christian season of Pentecost).
This number is down slightly from 2015, when 595 priests were ordained, but still much higher than in 2014, with 477 ordinations — the same year that Brooklyn ranked at the top.
Brooklyn stands out as a unique example of diversity among the U.S. dioceses for this year’s ordination class. CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) had sent an online survey to ordinands, their dioceses, seminaries and other theological organizations asking for data on the candidates for priesthood. Of the 80 percent that responded, 11 were reported as being from the Diocese of Brooklyn (even though only 10 were ordained on June 4).
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, in a pastoral letter, wrote that seven of the 10 new priests were born outside the U.S., and that the other three were born in the diocese, all with Brooklyn roots. This 70 percent contrasts with the national figure, in which 20-30 percent were foreign-born.
In the U.S. this year, largest numbers of immigrated priests came from Mexico, Colombia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Poland. In Brooklyn, Colombia and Poland were also well-represented. So were Haiti, the Dominican Republic and, for the first time, Nigeria. Two of Brooklyn’s new priests are from Haiti and Poland.
Attending the June 4 ordination liturgy at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph were nine bishops, more than 200 priests and almost 800 of the laity. Joining Bishop DiMarzio and the auxiliary bishops were Archbishop Valerian Maduka Okeke from the Archdiocese of Onitsha, Nigeria; and Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Coyle, auxiliary bishop for Military Services. During the service, Bishop DiMarzio addressed the priests and their families in English, Spanish, Creole and Polish.
The three Brooklyn natives: Rev. Ralph Edel, 26, was born in Brooklyn’s Marine Park neighborhood and attended Good Shepherd parish there. He celebrated his first Mass of Thanksgiving at his home parish on Sunday, June 5. Rev. Mark Bristol, 31, was born in Brooklyn of Guyanese parents, and attended elementary school in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He served in the U.S. Navy. He studied in Rome and is fluent in Italian. Rev. Marcial Thomas, 27, was also born in Brooklyn, but full biographical information on him was not available by press time.
However, in the true spirit of Brooklyn’s diversity, one of the priests from Poland has served a predominantly Italian parish — Sacred Hearts & St. Stephen’s Church in Carroll Gardens. Msgr. Guy Massie, pastor of Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen’s, was one of the vesting priests for Rev. Jaroslaw Father Szeraszewicz, 35.
At the conclusion of the ordination liturgy, Bishop DiMarzio announced the parish assignments for the new priests. Those who will serve Brooklyn parishes include Rev. Gesson Agenis, parochial vicar of St. Michael, Sunset Park; and Rev. Uririoghene Melchizedek J. B. Okrokoto, parochial vicar of Good Shepherd, Marine Park.
The three Brooklyn-natives have been assigned to parishes in Queens: Rev. Bristol as parochial vicar of St. Anastasia, Douglaston; Rev. Edel, as parochial vicar of St. Margaret, Middle Village; and Rev. Thomas, as parochial vicar of Our Lady of Sorrows, Corona, effective June 4.