Just a year after becoming a Catholic priest, Doug Langner said the loneliness started to creep in.
"You would go through times of (thinking), wouldn't it be nice to just share your day with someone else?" said Langner, who was ordained in 2008 after graduating from Illinois' Mundelein Seminary, and started to work in a Kansas City, Mo.-area parish. Soon he was the only priest assigned to his church, living alone in the rectory, which isn't uncommon as the Catholic Church faces a priest shortage that has forced many churches to shut down or merge.
Then, Langner met someone.
She worked at the church and was going through a divorce. The two had a connection, Langner said, though they didn't act on it.
But it helped him address doubts that had been there all along. It made him ask himself, "Are you really going to spend the next 50 years ... of your life without someone to share it with?"
It turns out, he wasn't. Langner left the priesthood about two years after his ordination. He said the vow of celibacy and the isolation it breeds weren't for him, but his resolve as a Catholic remains intact.
"I think there is a place in the church for people who are called to celibacy. They live it out in a beautiful way," he said. "But I also don't think they're the only people called. Is God really only calling single, celibate men to the priesthood?"
Young priests leaving the pastorate is another blow to the struggling Catholic Church, which is closing and consolidating churches amid widespread sex abuse allegations, a less devout population and a priest shortage.
"In the midst of this storm, (prospective priests are thinking), do I get in the boat? Do I stay in the boat? That has to be a discernment. I think that's one of the causes," said Bishop Ronald Hicks, vicar general at the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Due in part to the priest shortage, the archdiocese has closed schools and churches as part of an ongoing restructuring plan. Since 1975, the Chicago Archdiocese has shuttered more than 100 parishes and more than 250 schools, according to its annual report. During that time, the number of total priests shrank from 1,261 in 1975 to 746 in 2018, according to the diocese.