Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Two Rural Michigan Villages Are Producing An Inordinate Number of Catholic Priests

St. Mary's Catholic Church in Westphalia, MI
The New York Times website is running a human interest story about two towns in rural Clinton County, Michigan that are home to an unusually large number of young men pursuing the Catholic priesthood.  These towns--Fowler and Westphalia--have produced 44 priests.  Did I mention that Fowler has a population of 1224 and Westphalia has a population of 938?   This, of course, is especially noteworthy in light of the drastic decline in young Catholic men pursuing the priesthood.  

Here is a taste of Christina Capecchi's article at the Times:

The houses in these two villages eight miles apart in Central Michigan are orderly, with Virgin Mary statues in front yards, American flags on front porches and unlocked front doors. Faith is the center of life, those who live here say: Everyone is Catholic, everyone is related and everyone shows up at Mass. The youth groups are active. Nearly all the students attending the prom in the villages begin the festivities by attending a regularly scheduled 4:30 p.m. Mass, dressed in their party attire.

The only grade school in Westphalia is a Catholic one, and the only place of worship is a Catholic church, St. Mary’s, pictured in the city logo alongside the water tower.

“It seems like culture takes a little longer to catch up out here in the sticks,” said Vernon Thelen, who serves as president of Fowler, the equivalent of a mayor, and attends morning Mass several times a week. “When I say culture, I mean some of the bad culture you see on sitcoms and TV.”