Priest shortage forcing Jesuits to leave New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A shortage of Jesuit priests is forcing the storied Society of Jesus Catholic order to abandon New Mexico after more than 160 years.

The St. Louis, Missouri-based Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province is pulling out the last remaining four Jesuit priests next year, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

Rev. Warren Broussard, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church and Parish in Albuquerque will be the last to depart next June 30.

Broussard says the Jesuits are just stretched too thin to continue ministering to all the places that they've been ministering.

The decision to withdraw from New Mexico was made earlier this month by the Rev. Ronald A. Mercier, leader of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province in consultation with Archbishop of Santa Fe John C. Wester.

Jesuits first came to New Mexico in 1858, where they ministered to parishioners at San Felipe de Neri Catholic Church, in what is now Old Town.

Priests from the Jesuit order established other churches in New Mexico on behalf of the Catholic Church over the years, but more recently the Jesuit presence in those churches was reduced as fewer Jesuit priests were ordained.

The Jesuit Order, based in Rome, is formally named the Society of Jesus and was founded in the early 1500s by Ignatius Loyola. The order has more than 16,000 priests, brothers, scholars, and novices worldwide.

Pope Francis is the Roman Catholic Church's first Jesuit pope.

Jesuits are known for their strong commitment to social justice and intellectual rigor. In the U.S., Jesuit priests have been active in movements around immigrant race and racial equality.

Jesuit priest Greg Boyle in Los Angeles, for example, founded Homeboy Industries, one of the world's largest gang intervention programs.