Two years wait for overseas priests, Bishop says

Maitland-Newcastle diocese has established a process of identifying and recruiting suitable overseas priests but it may take up to two years to obtain an immigration visa, Bishop Michael Malone says.

Bishop Malone made the comments in a Newcastle-Maitland journal, Aurora, outlining proposed steps to implement the results of a diocesan consultation on "Workers for the Harvest".

Following discussion throughout the diocese on issues raised by the 1992-93 Synod of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Bishop Malone issued a Pastoral Response in August in which he backed proposals to recruit priests from overseas.

Bishop Malone has now put forward a nine-step process to recruit the priests.

After identifying potential countries with priest to share, Bishop Malone is to write to various bishops to gauge their interest. Dioceses who respond positively will be visited by Bishop Malone and representatives of the diocesan Council of Priests.

This will be followed by the drafting of a written agreement that will deal with reciprocal arrangements including teacher exchange and lay missionaries as well as the possibility of training seminarians.

"An approach will then be made to the Australian Government to obtain visas for these priests," Bishop Malone said.

"The office of the Bishops' Conference Office of Migrant and Refugees will assist. Experience shows that this process may take up to two years!"

The process outlined by Bishop Malone also addresses the need for preparation by local priests and communities as well as formation and inculturation for the priests recruited.

However, Bishop Malone added that the "historic" 1992-93 Synod emphasised "that Christ's mission was expressed through a Church which recognised and respected the fundamental call of all the baptised to share in that mission".

"Workers for the Harvest - Where to from here? " (Aurora, December 2006)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
Workers for the Harvest (Diocesan discussion paper)

Overseas priests wanted for Hunter Valley harvest: Bishop Malone (CathNews, 21/8/06)
Maitland-Newcastle weighs priest imports (CathNews, 23/3/06)

6 Dec 2006