NCP chair says overseas priests will need help to settle

The chairman of the National Council of Priests, Fr Hal Ranger, has said everything possible should be done to help overseas priests being imported into Australian Catholic communities to address the clergy shortage.

"We need to be careful that we are not acting as a Western colonial power, 'buying' in resources from financially poorer countries," he told the Sydney Morning Herald for a feature published today/

Fr Ranger also said the church needed to challenge Catholics to offer themselves for the ministry

The Bishops are drafting guidelines to smooth the transition for overseas priests recruited to help overcome Australia's shortage.

The guidelines, which are to be considered by Catholic bishops in November, are likely to include recommendations for levels of English proficiency and ways in which the international recruits can be helped to adapt to the needs of the local parish and familiarise them with the local culture.

"Some incoming priests adapt wonderfully and some just don't have the personal flexibility or adaptability to live and work comfortably in an environment that's so different to what they know," said Fr Peter Brock, who drafted the guidelines now under discussion.

"There have been instances where, for example, an individual priest has not been able to master English or Australian colloquial English, and this is particularly a problem at sensitive times like funerals and weddings.

"The other broader issue is whether a priest can adapt to the challenges and realities of quite a different culture, both church culture and the general culture."

Australian Catholic bishops sponsored 160 religious workers from overseas in the 12 months until last September, of which 90 were priests, and almost half were destined for NSW. The imported priests came from more than 30 countries, but predominantly Asia, Latin America and Africa - where there is no crisis of Catholic faith. In Sydney about 10 per cent of 165 parish priests hail from overseas. Those sponsored for positions of parish support in the past 12 months have come from India, Ethiopia, the Philippines and South America.

Overseas priests on wing and a prayer to settle in (Sydney Morning Herald 16/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
National Council of Priests

Priests on the frontline (The Tablet 14/5/05)

16 May 2005