Vincent’s Mission With the Clergy in a New Key
If you have ever traveled to another country you have experienced some form of culture shock. In the midst of sightseeing comes the realization of how differently people look, think, speak, eat, etc. Even if you have never been outside the United States it is likely that we have all experienced some form of culture shock when we visit other parts of the country whether rural, suburban or metropolitan. Of course, this is heightened when visiting where entire neighborhoods seem to speak a different language.
Just about every diocese in the US has experienced international clergy assisting in various capacities. In any given year a significant number of priests from other countries come here to study for advanced degrees or serve the local dioceses in parishes, hospitals or with immigrant groups.
Especially if international priests “come in cold” so to speak the experience can be a shock to both the priests and the people they serve.
A new form of Vincent’s ministry with priests
In 17th century France St. Vincent was noted for his Tuesday Conferences. Today we would call them “continuing education “or “ongoing formation” programs.
For almost two decades the Vincentian Center for Church and Society at John’s University has addressed the needs of international priests called to serve in the United States Church. These priests may have been very successful as ministers in their home country. Now they try to navigate a whole new set of customs.
For the 18th year the Vincentian Center for Church and Society offers an intensive one week program the touches major areas of stress. In a new twist two Nigerian Vincentians participated. This year’s class included Fr. John Bosco Bindel, CM and Joseph Ita-Sam, CM who both serve in St. Vincent’s Parish, Germantown, PA.(In the coming weeks we hope to have a report from them.)
They participated in an intensive, supportive five-day residential program in “Intercultural Competency,” which will treat a range of topics including history and characteristics of the American Church, approaches to gender, race, family. Additionally, they will explore the expectations of parishioners and many other topics.
Faculty for the acculturation seminar are drawn from St. John‘s University faculty (business, law, theology, psychology, speech, and anthropology), the staff of the Vincentian Center, diocesan administrators, and foreign-born resident priests, as well as experienced pastors.
Fr. Patrick J. Griffin, C.M., Executive Director serves as Program Coordinator.
“It would be a mistake, a serious mistake, not to do all that is in one’s power to form good priests, because the Church needs them badly.” —St. Vincent de Paul
Comments from last year’s seminar…
“I would highly recommend this seminar. It is like a box of tools given to a priest to be effective in his ministry.”
—Diocese of Rockville Centre/Nigeria
“It was challenging to be taught by a layperson how to preach. I look forward to more such challenges.”
—Archdiocese of New York/Dominican Republic
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