Fordham University’s new president will not be a priest
But the movement toward secular leadership has gained momentum since 2001, when Georgetown University in Washington, DC, became the first Jesuit college or university to appoint a president who was not a member of the order.
This trend reflects a grim reality facing the Catholic Church in the United States: there are not enough young men entering the priesthood to replace older priests who are retiring or dying, leaving a pool shrinking numbers of qualified clergy to lead a large nonprofit entity. as a modern university.
The number of Catholic priests in the United States has fallen precipitously in recent decades. In 1970, there were 59,192 priests in the country, but that number has fallen to 35,513 in 2020, according to the Center for Applied Research on the Apostolate, an initiative of Georgetown University that conducts social science research. on issues related to the Catholic Church.
This decline has been even more pronounced among religious orders, a category that includes Jesuits and groups like Franciscans and Dominicans. In 1970, there were 21,920 priests in religious orders in the United States, but by 2020 that number had fallen to 10,308.
Father McShane addressed that decline during Ms Tetlow’s presentation on Thursday.
“The demographic realities that we face are harsh,” he said. “They demand that we rise to the challenge and adopt a new way of doing things.”
When Father McShane entered the Jesuit order in 1967, there were 1,460 Jesuits in New York, he said, adding that today there remain 2,086 Jesuits nationwide and that the he average age is over 70 years old.
Only 34 men underwent Jesuit training in the country last year, Fr McShane said. And at Fordham, only 14 Jesuits still teach students, out of 747 full-time instructors, according to a university spokesperson.