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Borderland Catholic churches running low on priests

By Crystal Price
EL PASO, Texas -- The number of men going in to the priesthood in the Borderland is dwindling and it is making it difficult for some churches to meet the needs of the community.

According to the diocese of El Paso, the shortage of priests is being felt everywhere in the country, including the Borderland community.

"I think it's very demanding right now because there are so few of us," said Father Mariano, a priest at St. Pius X Catholic Church. "Before many churches had two or three priests, and now it's very rare to have parishes that have two priests."

Father Mariano has been a priest at St. Pius X Catholic Church for years.

"I was 20 years old, when I entered the seminary," said Father Mariano. "For me it's wonderful to have a passport to kind of enter into people's lives. Nobody else can do that."

But lately with the recent shortage of priests, Father Mariano said there has been a new set of challenges.

Father Mariano said the nationwide shortage can be the result of different factors, which include celibacy and the fact that less people go to church now in compared to years past.

The shortage of priests comes as new neighborhoods are sprouting up in El Paso, and which makes it difficult for the Catholic Church to respond as quickly to the community.

"If they want to talk to the priest and they have to make an appointment and wait a couple of weeks at least," Father Mariano said. "If somebody is sick, unfortunately, sometimes they pass away without the priest arriving."

The diocese said a lay person, or an unordained member of the church, has filled the role of a priest in some cases.

"Sometimes people do get upset because the priest isn't able to respond as they would want to, but a lot of times, they're very grateful," Father Mariano said.

Although there are people available to fill the roles, Father Mariano still encourages more people in the Borderland to consider becoming a priest.

"There's a lot of people who aren't accepting that commitment anymore," Father Mariano said. "I hope that we're open to living more committed lives."

According to the diocese in El Paso, there are 111 priests working in or belonging to the diocese. There are currently 18 seminarians, those who are studying to become priests, at different stages of formation.