Bishop Mark Seitz made the announcement at the pastoral center’s Martyr’s Hall on Jun. 20. A simultaneous announcement was held at Santa Lucia Parish by Fr. Tony Celino, the diocese’s vicar general.
The new priest, who has not yet been named, will come from the Order of Friar Servants of Mary. He will reside at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish.
“We have been very fortunate that the Servites have a priest they could send to us during this time when we simply do not have enough priests to serve all of our parishes,” said Bishop Seitz.
Bishop Seitz said the Diocese of El Paso has 57 parishes, 19 missions served by 43 diocesan priests and supplemented by 46 religious order priests. The number of priests who are expected to retire over the next 10 years exceeds the number of priests who will be ordained and will replace them, bishop said.
“A priest-sharing situation like what we will put in place at San Jose and Santa Lucia is what we’ve had to do for years in our West Texas parishes,” Bishop Seitz said. “I’ve spent more than a year looking at how best to serve our parishioners. Ideally, I would love to have a priest at every parish but that’s not possible.”
The announcement of a new priest is especially big news for San Jose where Fr. Jose Alcocer will retire Aug. 31, 2016. Earlier this year, San Jose’s church was torn down after a wall of the adobe building collapsed. Currently, a parish hall remains on the property where parishioners have been meeting for 11 months. Of particular concern for parishioners was their request to build a new church. Bishop Seitz told parishioners a new building in place of the old one is not possible. Not only is the former site limited in space, he said, there are other matters to consider.
“Although we have been blessed with the service of a new priest who will serve San Jose and Santa Lucia, we must begin to find the best ways to use the few priests we will have so that they are best able to serve regions of exploding growth in some parts of our Diocese at the same time as we serve existing communities.“
Bishop Seitz said San Jose’s building fund of an estimated $1 million is a “restricted fund.” It is held in trust for the parish by the diocese but can only be used by San Jose Parish for capital purposes.
“Although parishioners have been planning to use the money for a church building, the fund’s purpose is broader than that,” he said. “It can be used for any building needs of the parish with the approval of the bishop.”