BEVERLY — Cardinal Sean O'Malley has assigned the pastor of St. Mary's Church the additional duty of leading St. Margaret's Church, a move that reflects the growing shortage of Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Boston.
The Rev. David Barnes was appointed in March as administrator of St. Margaret's in Beverly Farms. He will continue in his role as pastor at St. Mary's, the largest of the city's three Roman Catholic parishes.
Barnes will replace the Rev. Edward Keohan, who retired after serving for two years as the temporary administrator at St. Margaret's.
Barnes said an administrator has the same duties as a pastor. He said he does not know how long his dual role will last.
"I'm certainly happy to be of service at St. Margaret's and do the best I can," he said. "It's obviously going to require some effort to try to be in two places at the same time. The goal is for all of the parishes to start working more together. That's my hope that we accomplish that."
A spokesman for the archdiocese said it's not unusual for a priest to oversee more than one parish. On the North Shore, the Rev. John Sheridan is pastor of both St. James Church in Salem and St. Thomas the Apostle in Peabody.
"There's no denying we have fewer priests than we'd like to have," spokesman Terrence Donilon said. "It is a reflection of where we're heading as an archdiocese going forward. We have a person as capable as Father Barnes willing to take on another assignment. We're very blessed by that."
The archdiocese has 291 parishes in 144 cities and towns serving 1.8 million Catholics, only 20 percent of whom are active churchgoers. The archdiocese has about 350 priests, not counting retired priests and priests from religious orders. That number is projected to shrink to 180 within a decade.