METHUEN — The Revs. Bill Waters and Thomas Casey, Augustinian friars who have been serving Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, will be leaving in June.
The parish will remain open with a priest from the Archdiocese of Boston taking care of the spiritual needs of the congregation, which worships out of St. Theresa Church at 22 Plymouth St. in Methuen and St. Augustine Church at 128 Ames St. in Lawrence.
"It was a difficult decision to make, but decreasing numbers as well as the aging of our friars has forced this decision on us," the Rev. Donald Reilly, prior provincial, wrote in a letter published in the church bulletin.
"I promise that we will do our best to help you," said Reilly, who is stationed in Villanova, Pa. "I ask that we pray for and work with each other so that this transition can renew the spirit and the hope that is a part of your Christian vision of a vibrant, active and welcoming parish community."
There are 211 men in the religious order and they have an average age of 65, said the Rev. Kevin DePrinzio, vocation director for the Augustinians. He is also stationed in Pennsylvania.
Of the 211 men, all of whom live on the East Coast, eight are in their 30s, 18 in their 40s, 46 in their 50s, 58 in their 60s, 55 in their 70s, 22 in their 80s and four are in their 90s.
He said 16 priests have died in the last two years and, although there won't be an ordination until this summer, he has talked to more than a dozen men interested in joining the priesthood.
"It sounds kind of bleak, but there's a lot of possibilities because I've seen an interest, maybe because this generation is very focused on service," said DePrinzio, who at 31 is one of the youngest priests in the order.