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Cardinal Dolan Focusing On Recruitment Of New York Priests

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Back home from Rome, Timothy Cardinal Dolan is tackling the shortage of priests to serve New York's growing Catholic population.

The simple chapel in the South Bronx where Cardinal Dolan sang Mass Thursday felt a world away from where he was just four days ago - St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Several New York priests-in-training participated in Sunday's Papal Mass - a high-profile reminder that the archdiocese is facing a priest shortage.

"The good news is we get a steady flow. The more somber news is we're not getting the peak that we want," Cardinal Dolan said.

After Pope Benedict XVI visited New York in 2008, 40 men enrolled in the local seminary college. However, Cardinal Egan says many of the recruits dropped out.

Both cardinals agree the need for priests remains as great as ever.

"Twenty-five years ago, the archdiocese had one priest for every 900 Catholics. Today it's a very different story, 2,000 Catholics for every one priest," Dolan said.

The priest in charge of recruitment hopes the enthusiasm over Cardinal Dolan's elevation serves to inspire.

"Anytime to lift our minds to God, think of things of the Church, will get those that God is calling to maybe bring it from the back of their minds up into the front, and then we pray for the grace of courage that they take the next step," said Father Luke Sweeney.

"We need all the help we can get when it comes to vocations," Dolan said.

The cardinal knows his tenure will be judged in part by how many men he can recruit to join him in the priesthood.

With seminary enrollment struggling, three local dioceses, New York, Brooklyn, and Rockville Centre, will combine their seminaries into one single program, starting this fall.

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