Lay people shift foundation of Catholic Church
By Emily Aronson
PORTSMOUTH, Mar. 10, 2006 (www.seacoastonline.com) - The Rev. Michael Kerper knows he can’t do it alone. Kerper is priest at two of the city’s three Catholic churches, St. James and St. Catherine of Siena, due to the retirement of Monsignor Lawrence Burns.
Kerper said he could not juggle his expanding duties without the help of lay ministers - a group whose growth he feels is essential to the survival of the Catholic Church.
"The big change happening in the Catholic Church today is expansion of ministry beyond the priest," Kerper said as he sat at St. James rectory.
"In the past, almost all ministry was associated with priesthood. Priests did the Mass, visited the sick, ran the school, balanced the church’s books, even cut the lawn."
As the number of priests decline in the United States, Kerper said Catholic churches will increasingly have to depend on laity. Kerper sees a number of reasons for the decline of priests, including the loss of prestige associated with serving in the clergy; the declining number of practicing Catholics and smaller Catholic families; and the negative impact of the priest abuse scandal.
Kerper said he welcomes the shift from what he calls a monolithic form of ministry where priests did everything to a diversified form of ministry where a variety of people help run the church.