Posted March 16, 2006
Practical Suggestion in regard to International Priests
by Dr. Seung Ai Yang
Taken from the study of International Priests that is posted on our website
If the shortage of priests is the only reason for inviting an international
priest, he should not be invited. It will merely perpetuate the problems
reported in this study. Also, if a priest is invited, it will be important
to inform the parishioners that he is coming because of his qualifications,
not just as a fill-in.
For helping the international priest with information and the skills
necessary for American life, such as driving, getting a car, reporting
income tax, opening bank account, etc., a formal orientation does not seem
to be the best setting, as it can be overwhelming to a newcomer. Instead,
ongoing support from a group of people easily accessible to the new priest
would be more beneficial, since life in a new setting will constantly bring
new questions. One possibility is that a parish could form a hospitality
team of several volunteers, with a chairperson responsible for organizing
the volunteers’ schedule and functioning as a contact person. The priest
should be urge to contact the team chair when he has specific questions
about his new life in America. The team may be dismissed once the priest has
settled relatively well.
When planning a support program for international priests, it would be
valuable to include international priests as speakers to share the wisdom
gained from their actual experiences. For example, they could share some
critical (or life-threatening) incidents and some thanksgiving (or
life-giving) incidents. Or they could share some “dos” and “don’ts” based on
their concrete experiences. It would also be helpful to diversity the
international priest-speakers, especially according to the length of their
U.S. ministry. For example, a priest who has just finished his first year of
ministry might provide vivid examples for the new priests to expect. A
priest who has ministered five years may share a different perspective,
including the changes from the first year to more settled ministry life. A
priest who feels quite at home after many years of ministry might give not
only wisdom, but also a realistic hope to the newcomers who have difficulty
imagining the feeling of being “at home” in a new land.
Before or after the arrival of the international priest, it would be very
beneficial to have a reflection session for his parishioners about their own
historical and social location as Catholics in America, including a very
brief history of immigration, international priests, and racism in the
United States. The reflection session might also include a practical guide
of “dos” and “don’t's” in relation to the international priest. For example:
“Do” encourage the priest to share his traditions, value systems, food, etc.
“Don’t” impose something on the priest, saying that he should do it because
he is in America.
The priest also needs a reflection session on his historical and social
location as a Catholic priest who comes to the United States for ministry.