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      Fewer priests bring talk of consolidation

      Priests sing while existing Mass

      MidMichigan catholics celebrate Holy Week by joining hundreds and worshipping.

      This year's celebration comes as the leader of the Diocese of Saginaw says the church must consider consolidation, with so many churches and very few priests.

      The blessing of the oil and the consecration of the chrism brings hundreds of catholics out to celebrate Holy Week.

      Each from an individual parish joining in unity in Christ, but the priests are becoming fewer making recruitment vital for the future.

      Bishop Joseph Cistone says, "I do believe that our young people are considering the priesthood."

      Cistone says the challenges often come from parents not understanding or supporting God's call for their children.

      Right now, the Diocese of Saginaw has 109 parishes, churches, and facilities, but there are few priests available to perform the sacraments for Saturday and Sunday masses.

      "How do I do that with 57 active priests and 26 other active and senior priests?" asks Cistone.

      Some priests are in their 80's, driving 70 to 80 miles a weekend.

      Parishioners NBC25 spoke with are receptive to the idea of consolidation.

      Marion Hornacek from Pinconning says, "Absolutely! I don't have a problem with that even if it was my own parish. I know that it's tough and we get attached to that, but that's not the real goal in life."

      Tom Hornacek of Pinconning says, "Sometimes we have to get smaller to get stronger."

      Other issues surrounding the church include lower attendance.

      Cistone says some people stopped going because they were hurt by the church, don't see the importance of it, or have moved away because of the economy.

      However, Cistone, along with parishioners say they want to be proactive to inspire them to come back.

      David Wachowiak of St. Mary's of Michigan says, "The church always has its arms open to welcome and receive folks back."

      Cistone says he's already spoken to a consultant about consolidation and will talk to another one, however he says there is no timeline or definite plans about what will be done.

      Cistone says in one case he's recommending one priest take on five parishes.

      He says he won't make a final decision until he's visited all of the parishes in the diocese and properly evaluated them.