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Posted May 17, 2011

Strengthening Bonds with Other Priests

Taken from the Study: International Priests in America

[International] Priests need bonds with other people from their country, and they need bonds with American priests.

A parish lay minister observes:

I would be cautious about where I sent the international priests. I would try to send them to a place where there would be some natural community for them, amongst fellow priests or even people from their country. And I would put a lot of emphasis on mentoring them once they are here. I think the guys that Iíve met who havenít done well often seem to be awfully isolated without much support.

A priest helping in acculturation programs:

Presbyterates need to think in terms of very practical things. Most diocesan priests have family in the area, and while theyíre young, their parents are living. So on their day off they can go to their brotherís home or their sisterís home, see family, take a nap, have dinner, and spend the day with their family. What do international priests do on their day off? One of them told me, he said, when we all get together on a Thursday and do something socially, the other priests complain because all the Indian guys are going to do something. They complain because they see us as being cliquish. But none of them have invited us to their homes, none of them have asked us to do those other things. None of us have families here in this country.

A priest in his forties from the Philippines:

In the Philippines they have a program for the newly ordained priests for five years. They meet together at least once a month and then share their experiences. And somebody is taking care of them; a priest is assigned to them. So I think a program like that for priests would be good.

Interviewer: I suppose the archdiocese here does not have that.

Priest: No, no. Here you are on your own. You do your own thing. Well, we have recollection, we have retreats and meetings. But itís still lacking. In the Philippines, I was a parish priest there for sixteen years, and in our diocese we have a sports festival for all the priests of the diocese. We have teams of priests and we play. Also we have cooperative banks where the priests put in money and you can borrow. The cooperative in our diocese is really big. I think they have maybe one hundred million, and you can barrow enough to buy a car. Yeah! Right now we have that! Because of that the priests know each other. They see each other in other places, so there is camaraderie.

I think we can set up a program here for new priests, maybe a one-year or two-year program for orientation at first and then maybe monthly meetings for a year. And recollections. Because itís really hard. I for one experienced this. I almost wanted to go home! Because youíre alone; you have nobody until you find Filipino parishioners. But they are too busy in the United States. They work so hard!

A lay church musician in the East:

We need to help them develop relationships and friendships, the normal human kind of interactioins that will nourish them, that are really important. I canít help but think how isolated a lot of these guys feel at times in the communities where people donít really ďgetĒ who they are and what their background is. I think the priests are probably going to need the skills to begin to make those connections happen. Thatís part of the ongoing skills to begin to make those connections happen. Thatís part of the ongoing help that I think they need. I think we should bring in international priests in groups and put them where some of their nationality are there already.

An international priest serving as a staff member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops suggested restructuring.

We need to be more flexible in using priests. Why must a priest stay in one parish? Why donít we have some centers? We should have four or five priests at one center, and that center can work in ten different parishes. Instead of being my own boss, we can have a group of people sharing experiences together, having community life, even with diocesan priests. They can share problems, they can support each other, and they can learn from each other. So instead of fighting against problems in that parish by himself alone, he can say something to other people who have the same problems and who are expert in some other situation. If we can restructure, the shortage of priests will not be a big problem.