Priests by the numbers in our diocese

Anne Marie Amacher
Active and retired priests serving the Diocese of Davenport process back to Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport after the Chrism Mass.

By Thom Hennen
Question Box

Q. How many priests are serving in the Diocese of Davenport? What can we do to increase the number of priests?

A. This is a timely question, as just a few weeks ago we celebrated “Good Shepherd Sunday” and the “World Day of Prayer for Vocations.” In preparation for my Sunday homily that week I did some homework so that I could accurately report on this.

Fr. Hennen

Right now there are just 60 priests in full-time active ministry in the Diocese of Davenport, covering 74 parishes across 22 counties and serving in a variety of other ministries as well. Of these 60 active priests, 11 are “on loan.” Eight are from other dioceses (including from Africa and Asia) and three priests are from the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.


Of those 60 full-time active priests, about half are 60 years old or older and 11 of those are already at or near the eligible retirement age of 70. Five priests will retire this summer and two new priests will be ordained.

The total number of priests in the diocese, including our retired priests, is closer to 100 and a few of these, as you may have read in last week’s Catholic Messenger, will be serving in the capacity of “senior priest” in a couple of parishes. Most priests love being priests but when they retire they don’t miss all the meetings and other administrative work. This gives them a way to continue valuable service to parishes and much needed relief to their brothers in full-time ministry.

As you can tell from this, the situation is not great. Though, we should remember that at one time there were only 12 priests for the whole world! Also, it wasn’t that long ago, relatively speaking, when a young Italian Dominican priest, Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, was traveling up and down the Mississippi River valley, founding churches (including four in our diocese) and seeing to the needs of the people as best he could. Whatever the solution to the priest shortage may be, at least in the short to medium term, we may need to adjust our expectations, our paradigms of ministry and adopt more of a “frontier” or “missionary” mentality.

As to the second part of your question, how we get more priests, this is no small challenge, though certainly not insurmountable. It is too easy just to say, “Pray for vocations,” though we absolutely should do that. It is also important that we actively encourage vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life and that starts with having a positive and hopeful attitude about the Church as a whole. It also means providing an atmosphere in our parishes and homes in which young people feel truly at liberty to explore these callings.

In my own case, I remember very distinctly feeling a call to the priesthood as early as the fourth grade but I also needed to be praying with my family at home, going to church on Sundays and being involved at my parish. I needed to hear a missionary priest from Africa tell me over coffee and doughnuts, “You should think about being a priest.” I needed to have a faithful and joyful example of service to the Church in my pastors growing up. I needed a community that supported me.

There is never just one moment when a calling happens. It is a thousand little moments strewn out over many years. Our role as both clergy and lay faithful is to provide joyful, credible witness to the faith and to be an instrument of God’s calling.

(Father Thom Hennen serves as the pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport and Vicar General for the Diocese of Davenport. Send questions to

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