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Posted February 28, 2006

A unique way of dealing with the priest shortage other than importing priests

Recommended by Rev. Virgilio Elizondo in

International Priests in America

[Study already cited on our website]

One thing that has become very clear over the years is that simply because a priest is from Spain or Latin America does not prepare him to work with the Spanish-speaking of the United States. In many cases, simply bringing in a Spanish-speaking priest disrupts a very active and dynamic lay apostolate. When people move to the United States, they begin to acculturate in many ways and are no longer the same as they were in Latin America. In many ways they remain very Latino/a, yet in many other ways they become very acculturated to the United States. For better or worse, they become something new, something different. Simply because a priest speaks Spanish does not prepare him to work well with Spanish-speaking Americans. More is needed.

What I think we need, something that I have been advocating for many years, is the formation of a “St. James Missionary Society” in reverse! Priests could join the society for a certain number of years, have a sufficient period of cultural, linguistic, and spiritual preparation, and then, in cooperation with the inviting diocese, determine the place and nature of their work. These priests could be visited regularly by the coordinator of the society, have regular regional meetings, and put on an annual retreat-meeting, where they could enjoy fellowship, pray together, discuss their work, and celebrate the Eucharist together. This would be the place where success stories could be shared, and difficulties and problems could be discussed openly. If need be, the superior of the society could then discuss the problem areas with the bishop of the diocese concerned.

I do not believe that the present way of doing things will work, that is, bishops recruiting directly from Columbia, Mexico, or other countries. It would be far better to have a well-planned program that could keep improving through the successes and failures of the participants.