Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Language, Culture and Ministry Workshops

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Challenges for International Priests

International priests serving in the United States bring many gifts and talents to their ministry, but also face distinct challenges. One of the most pervasive challenges is that of language.

Even though most international priests have a strong command of the English language, they experience difficulty being understood by their parishioners due to lexical and accent variations. Along with different accents, cross-cultural misunderstandings can create a barrier for the priest, diminishing the overall effectiveness of his ministry.

Communication and Cultural Identity 

International priests want to be understood by their parishioners in order to minister to them effectively and build good relationships with them.

Accent training is not intended to "Americanize" the international priest or neutralize his accent so as to diminish his cultural identity. Rather, it aims to give the priest skills he can implement to communicate in his ministry more effectively.

Workshop Goals

This workshop training aims to give priests the skills needed to:

  • produce a standard North American accent
  • proclaim the Gospel and other liturgical texts in a listener-friendly manner for North American audiences 
  • learn strategies for effective interpersonal communication in the United States.

Format

This training is delivered in eight sessions, typically over the span of two or three days, depending on the needs and availability of the diocese and the participants.

Method

Using techniques from the Compton P-ESL  (Pronouncing English as a Second Language) method, participants will progress systematically through the essential elements of producing the target accent, including individual sounds, words, sentences and elements of prosody (rhythm, stress, intonation and phrasing). Participants will then apply these principles to their proclamation of liturgical texts, as well as by negotiating meaning in interpersonal encounters.

Through the method and exercises in Cultural Detective®, participants will explore scenarios common to ministry in U.S. settings and discover the differences in values that shape and define our various and particular cultures.

Workshop Sessions

Session 1: Introduction to North American Speech Patterns

This session focuses on how to train the ear to detect derivations between one's current speech patterns and those of target speakers and provide techniques that can be used to practice the target speech patterns on the sound, word, and sentence level.

Session 2: Speech Patterns for Increased Comprehensibility

This session teaches how to apply target speech patterns to important features of linguistic comprehensibility. Particular attention is given to stress, rhythm and intonation.

Session 3: Speech Patterns for Pastoral and Liturgical Ministry

This session focuses on how to apply target speech patterns to important speech tasks for priests: proclamation, homiletics and spontaneous speech. Particular attention is given to phrasing, volume and speed.

Session 4: Introduction to U.S. Cultural Patterns

This session explores underlying cultural values that shape American culture and introduces workshop participants to how these values are expressed in social customs and behavior.

Session 5: U.S. Cultural Norms in Interpersonal Communication

This session looks at the preferred styles and content of interpersonal interactions in the United States. Nonverbal cues and contextual considerations are explored.

Session 6: Organizational Communication in the United States

This session reviews common communication tasks involving administrators in American parish settings and discusses the effect of American cultural norms on organizational behavior.

Session 7: Lay Attitudes Toward Priestly Ministry in the United States

This session looks at how American cultural norms contribute to the lay perspective on the role of the priest in parish life.

Session 8: Building Bridges: Awareness and Action

This session explores ways to develop intercultural competence and apply it to future cross-cultural encounters that one is likely to face while ministering in the United States.

Cost

Workshop cost is $2,950 for up to 16 participants (minimum 10), and $3,450 for groups over 16 (maximum 24). Material fees are $50 per participant. Travel expenses, including meals and accommodations, are in addition to the cost of the workshop.

Scheduling

Training is typically conducted between mid-May and mid-August, but can be made available at other times of the year. To schedule a workshop for your diocese's international priests, please contact us via our web inquiry form.

Alaskan dioceses (Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau)

"[The workshop] was fantastic! I really enjoyed participating. It became a venue for the participants to know each other and we established relationships to help one another to be more effective and efficient ministers of God."

"I go home after this work bringing with me wonderful learning cultural aspects of my brother priests and the presenter's sharing and input and presentations. I feel more connected with them and I am more or less equipped to understand the American culture."

"I wish I had this seminar at the very beginning of my ministry." 

Dioceses of Belleville and Springfield-Cape Girardeau

"The session on [American English] pronunciation was the most helpful part because my greatest concern has been effective communication."

"Knowing about American culture and values helped me to understand myself better and the people I serve."

"This workshop helped me understand the relationship of pastor to lay minister in the parish."

North Dakota dioceses (Bismarck, Fargo) 

"Now I have a better understanding of the American cultural value system, which is going to help me understand better how to reach out to them." 

"The presenter is very experienced. What he speaks matches my experience of various cultures. He is a very good teacher of American language and culture."

"For me, the most helpful part of the workshop was on pronunciation -- as an Indian, our languages are normally spoken fast. This seminar underlined the importance of speaking slowly and clearly in order to be understandable."

Diocese of Jackson

"The examples were based on real-life experiences. That was very helpful."

"It made me to be conscious of my language so that I may better serve the needs of the people through the way I communicate."

 CatholicExtension

Catholic Extension and the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates have partnered to offer this workshop for international priests in mission dioceses. The agreement covers 100 percent of the cost of training. Catholic Extension also will share a portion of the cost of lodging for priests who require overnight accommodations to attend the workshop.

In the summer of 2014, five grants will be awarded to bring this workshop to mission dioceses. Grant application deadline is May 16, 2014. For more information and to submit an online funding request for this workshop, visit the Catholic Extension website.