Annual Acculturation Seminar for International Priests

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Acculturation Seminar for International Priests

In an intensive, supportive five-day residential program, participants who have already developed survival skills and have conversational ability in English focus on these goals:

  • Church Development in the U.S.: Gain an overview of the development of the Catholic Church in the pluralistic, religiously diverse U.S. and discuss models of Church and roles of Priests within that context.
  • Anthropological and Sociological Issues: Engage in discussions on culture, gender, race, family, multiculturalism, cultural bridges and the acculturation process itself to discern differences between one’s native culture and U.S. culture(s).
  • Psychological Issues: Reflect on the issues of stress, creativity, self-knowledge and personal growth that the acculturation process engenders.
  • Priest as Leader, Team Member and Collaborator: Grow in appreciation of the need in organizations for servant leadership and discuss with experienced pastors the issues of acculturation in the parish and rectory.
  • Church Structure and Collaboration: Study overall church structure in the U.S. and the roles of clergy and laity within the parish and diocesan organizations.
  • Interpersonal Communications: Recognize the complexity and centrality of communication to ministry and engage in practice sessions which focus on cultural differences.
  • Pastoral Communications: Reflect on attitudes and skills which enhance pastoral communication with special emphasis on reading and preaching.
  • Time Management: Learn time management skills that contribute to a healthy and productive work ethic and lifestyle.
  • Immigration and Legal Issues: Discuss legal issues, immigration and pastoral concerns.
  • Liturgical Sharing: Share Liturgy (Eucharist and Divine Office) as a way of building community.
  • Relationships: Establish relationships with other international priests as a means of support
Inquiries can be directed at the Vincentian Center for Church and Society
p: 718-990-1612

Visit the 'downloads' tab to download the brochure, registration & verification forms, and FAQ's



The following questions about acculturation programs are frequently asked by bishops, priest-personnel directors, and congregational leaders:

Q. Isn’t one of the prime issues of acculturation helping the priests to speak better English?

A. Effective interpersonal Communication is a necessary skill in ministry and every effort has to be made by each priest to improve his oral English. However, language can not be separated from culture. Many of the misunderstandings and difficulties priests experience are not linguistic but are the result of failing to know, and more importantly appreciate, the culture or cultures they are working with. Simple issues of how close one stands to another, eye contact, table manners, food preparation, etc. can cause problems.

Q. As a university program, does your seminar offer just the academic perspective or do you go beyond theory into practice?

A. The program offers a sound theoretical base but also stresses practical applications. For example, the fact that the Church in the US has moved through several waves of immigration has impacted institutional services, structures and systems in ways very different from most countries. A brief lesson and strong caution about the implications of our church-state relationship, the structures of democracy and the implications of the rule of law, as well as diocesan-specific issues such as fundraising, liturgical practice, vacation, banking, etc. and the use of the Web as a ministry resource are included.

Q. Relationships with women in the US and those in many developing countries are quite different. Do you deal with this directly?

A. Yes at two levels. First, indirectly in the fact that four of the five members of our coordinating staff are women (three married and one religious). Five of the 14 faculty members are women and are from a range of disciplines including banking and law. In addition, this issue is presented from a range of vantage points by a priest canon lawyer, a priest director of immigration, a priest-counselor, a female professor of interpersonal communications, and a female attorney. The recent sex scandal is also treated.

Q. Is globalization reducing the need for these sessions? It seems that we are coming closer together as a world and in our values; after all we are one church.

A. Globalization has contracted the world, but cultural differences run deep. Enculturation of the Gospel remains an issue in evangelization. Globalization has also highlighted some of the more dramatic differences between nations especially in terms of family, work ethic, parenting, dress, the role of women, religious practice, etc. Without an extended-depth effort, knowledge of other cultures tends to be superficial and very often stereotypical. Anthropologists guide the priests to do a comparison on key values in their own country and those they perceive in the US and to discuss the impact of both on ministry. A very obvious example is the place of Sunday worship and the norm for the Sunday homily. The academic setting encourages discussion of the similarities and the differences between cultures so that awareness is raised and the inclination to impose one’s own cultural perspectives on others is lessened. The program also stresses the need for ongoing self-study.

Q. One of the problem adjustment areas is the rectory. How do you deal with that?

A. In our first session in 2000, many of the difficult issues raised by the priests related to rectory life so since then we have added a special Pastors Panel composed of three highly respected and experienced pastors from three different dioceses each of whom has been through his own acculturation experience. Speaking with great clarity, focus and directness, they encourage the priests to consider ways to respond to the challenge of rectory life and “living with the boss.” In reviewing some of their experiences with the pastors, they learn alternate ways of interpreting situations and responding to them, especially through honest and open communication, including asking questions, something which is not easy for some cultures. The pastors encourage a healthy life-style which includes faithful prayer, good recreation, and ongoing study, formal or informal.

Q. What is the advantage for priests to attend a university-run residential program like St. John’s? Isn’t this more a diocesan function?

A. Both are important and achieve different goals. The university is a resource which is open to serve the Church. We have found that when priests from several dioceses, congregations and nations come together for a week where they pray, worship, study and share recreational and educational experiences, they develop into a genuine community. Their shared priesthood creates a natural bond but the program sharing builds a culture of openness and learning is facilitated. The priests also share challenges they have met and can offer support to their peers because of this openness. They begin to see more clearly the universality of the experience of acculturation and this gives them confidence that much of what they experience, the easy and hard, is quite natural and to be expected. The intensiveness allows them to become more committed to entering into the process of acculturation actively and with personal responsibility. They also set up actual and virtual networks according to nationality, geography or interest and this is positive.

Q. How does a diocese or parish justify the cost for someone who may only stay here three or five years?

A. We have put that question to the pastors and to many international priests themselves. All concur that the question may be short-sighted. The majority of respondents view cultural competency programs as a double investment with good rates of return. First, it is an investment in the individual priest’s formation and development; the global priesthood gains. Second and equally important, it is an investment which yields dividends to the people in the parishes and institutions where the priests serve; the Church in the US benefits. There is a consensus that the more knowledgeable and self-aware the priest becomes, the more effective and confident he will be in his evangelization efforts within our diverse communities and within the presbyterate as well.

Sponsored by

Vincentian Center for Church and Society


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Food for Thought

Catholic universities will be particularly attentive to the poorest and to those who suffer economic, social, cultural or religious injustice. This responsibility begins within the academic community but it also finds application beyond it.

Pope John Paul II, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (40)