Information Bulletin 89

September 2008

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Dear Brothers in Ministry,

As you know, Australia has been graced by the presence of clergy and religious from other lands. Their presence is not new. They have been here since ‘day-one' as pastors, school teachers, migrant chap-lains and the like. In more recent years their number has grown dramatically: over the past four years more than 400 visas were granted for clergy and religious. Wisely, we ask the question today: how well have we welcomed, enabled, and integrated these folk into Australian life and into the Church?

In November 2005, the Australian Bishops approved a document entitled "Some Issues to Consider when Wel-coming Priests from Overseas." It highlighted the need of special care for these men in the first six months or so of their new life. It identified some basic cultural customs concerning prayer and the sacraments; banking and taxation; driver's licences; language; food and cooking; medical and hospital cover; integrity in ministry, etc. In a way, it identified a ‘first phase' of care by which dioceses and parishes would help these men find their feet and feel at home here in parish life.

It was designed, also, to make us ready to share with them a more reflective acculturation process. To that end, the Bishops asked the Council for Clergy Life and Ministry to put together a proposal (a ‘second phase", as it were) to address significant issues at an even deeper level. The proposal was approved in May and is being acted on at the moment. It is enclosed.

With warm regards,

Frank Devoy, Director

{slide=Welcoming, enabling and integrating overseas priests}

Welcoming, Enabling, and Integrating Overseas Priests:
A Proposal for the Australian Church.


Acknowledging the giftedness that overseas priests are able to bring to the Church of Australia:

a) Each diocese accepts responsibility for a dignified process of welcome, acceptance, and orientation of priests from overseas, who have much to offer the Australian Church, by providing guidelines and directions to that end;

b) That dioceses within each Province agree to share their resources in the preparation of a welcome-ing, enabling, and integrating programme of mutual benefit to all;

c) That people of suitable expertise agree to participate professionally in the conduct of such a programme for the good of the Australian Church;

d) That drawing on such professional expertise, a thorough selection process be conducted with the diocese of origin, evaluating as far as possible the adaptability and genuineness of those nominated to serve within the Australian Church;

e) That each diocese set in place a professional formation programme for mentors who will accompany overseas priests when they first arrive in Australia;

f) That each diocese develop a process of prepar-ation for its clergy and for parishes of the diocese so that they appreciate fully the expectations and challenges that are mutually experienced, especially in the first weeks and months of the newly arrived priests;

g) That in the spirit of Jesus' "come and see" (Jn 1:39), clergy and laity of the receiving parish will seek to become familiar with the culture, customs, traditions, and local church of the overseas priest;

h) That a formal welcome be given to the newly arrived priests, as soon as is practicable, by the clergy and laity of the receiving parish, as well as the bishops, priests, and deacons of the receiving deanery and presbyterium;

i) That it be appreciated that the process of welcome, acceptance, and orientation of priests from overseas is complex, not given to simple solutions, and will involve different levels or stages of orientation, provided at different times, when each priest is deemed--by his mentor and himself--to be ready;

j) That a welcoming and transition period of at least six months occurs, during which each overseas priest experiences the Australian culture, church life, the diocese and its structures, and is intentionally mentored until he is ready for the following formal programme.

{/slide} {slide=General Proposal}


1. That Provinces conduct a four to five day live-in Conference (once or twice a year, or as often as necessary) which assists more formally those overseas priests who have been in Australia for at least six months;

2. That during this Conference the newly arrived priests, their mentors, the clergy and, at appropriate times, lay leaders--including both men and women--reflect on and embrace both their mutual giftedness and the new realities each face for the mission of the church in Australia;
3. That this four to five day Conference cover, as a minimum, aspects such as:

• Culture and Transitions
• Parish Life: Role of Priests in Parish and Ethnic Ministries
• Integrity in Ministry: Professional Standards & Personal Boundaries
• The Place of Women in the Church & Australian society
• Language expectations
• Pastoral Ministry and Practice in Australia
• History of the Church in Australia: local, diocesan, national
• Aboriginal Australia
• Cross-Cultural Communication
• Mentoring, Ongoing Education & Spiritual Care

4. That an Implementation Committee for this Conference be established on the advice of the Diocesan Directors in each Province;

5. That an Acculturation Resource Team, under the guidance of the Council for Clergy Life and Ministry, be established as a resource for the various Provinces in undertaking this work and evaluating its on-going effectiveness;

6. That the Conference in each Province brings together the following: overseas priests (when ready); migrant chaplains; and local clergy, particularly those who are mentors; and at fitting times lay leaders including men and women;

7. That the location of the Conference in each Province and a suitable agenda be determined by the (Arch)bishop of the hosting diocese in consultation with his Director of Clergy Life and Ministry (or equivalent persons), and the costs of participation be carried by the diocese of each participant;

8. That building on this 4-5 day initial Conference, suitable follow up conferences and in-services be organised to assist the ongoing reception, enabling and integration of overseas priests as needed;

9. That the document prepared by the National Com-mission for Clergy Life and Ministry in conjunct-ion with the National Migration Office, approved by the Bishops of Australia (November 2005: "Some Issues to Consider when Welcoming Priests from Overseas"), be revised to reflect present-day realities and be a resource document for all parties involved in welcoming, enabling, and integrating overseas priests into Australian life.
-- Approved, ACBC, May 2008

The Process: Acculturation.
The Christian Outcome: an Inculturated Australia

While not wishing to be too hard and fast about definitions, cultural anthropology generally defines enculturation as a once only process whereby an infant is socialised into the customs, habits and behaviours of his or her culture of birth.

On the other hand, acculturation is a ‘second' process whereby members of one cultural group later adopt the customs, habits and behaviours of another group--usually a minority group adopting habits and language patterns of the dominant group(s). This process demands mutual exchange, appreciation, and understanding.

The term inculturation is an ecclesial term not normally found in books on cultural anthropology. It describes a process of shaping a culture in the light of the Gospel. Nonetheless, an acculturation process, which actively engages each one of us in bringing the hospitality of Jesus to newly arrived clergy and citizens, graces Australian life and inculturates it.

{/slide} {slide=Graced by Migration}

From "Graced by Migration" - Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life

"Welcome one another then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God" (Rom 15:7).

The culture of welcome is more than
acts of loving assistance
in the acculturation process of settlement
or acts of support for enabling legislation
to provide the right structures for immigrants to settle.

Such a culture of welcome also implies
the accepting of the truly human values and practices that immigrants bring in the process
known as inculturation.

Inculturation implies a serious dialogue
with the cultural and religious traditions,
generating trust, understanding and openness
to new initiatives within the mainstream Church.

It implies the incorporation of authentic
cultural and religious practice and values
into areas such as education, the liturgy and health care as well as into the very heart of evangelisation.
"Australia's fluidity of cultures makes ‘inculturation' even more indispensable, as it is not possible
to evangelize without entering into serious dialogue with cultures." (Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi, para. 36)

Taken from "Graced By Migration: Implementing a National Vision in Pastoral Care for a Multicultural Australian Church, Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life, May 2007, p. 11.

Did you miss the last Information Bulletin (no. 88, June) on New Zealand's Assembly; was it buried under World Youth Day material? If you have not seen it, check it out here! It's worth a read!

  • Created: 01 September 2008
  • Modified: 29 April 2009