Challenges for International Priests
International priests serving in the United States bring many
gifts and talents to their ministry, but also face distinct
challenges. Among the most pervasive challenges are those of
language and intercultural communications.
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
Developing a deeper understanding of the differing cultural values
and behaviors of both himself and his American parishioners equips
the priest to act effectively in supporting his parish, his
ministry, and those co-workers with whom he ministers.
This workshop training aims to give priests the skills
- produce spoken English in a way that is easy for Americans to
- proclaim the Gospel and other liturgical texts in a
listener-friendly manner for North American audiences
- learn more about their cultural values and assumptions, and
those of their parishioners, and
- develop strategies for effective interpersonal communication in
the United States.
This training is delivered in eight sessions, typically over two
or three days, depending on the needs and availability of the
diocese and the participants.
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
Introduction to North American Speech Patterns - Vowels
This session focuses on how to train the ear to detect
derivations between one's current speech patterns and those of
target speakers and provides techniques that can be used to
practice the target speech patterns on the sound, word, and
sentence level. Session 1 focuses upon vowels.
Introduction to North American Speech Patterns -
A continuation of the first session. This session emphasizes
sound and word level speech patterns with specific emphasis upon
Session 3: 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
Session 4: 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 5: Introduction to U.S.
This session explores underlying cultural values that shape
American culture and introduces how these values are expressed in
social customs and behavior.
Session 6: U.S.
Cultural Norms in Interpersonal and
This session looks at the preferred styles and content of
interpersonal interactions as well as common communication tasks in
administering an American parish. Nonverbal cues and cross-cultural
conflict will be explored along with American cultural norms'
affect upon 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.
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.
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
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 2015, five grants will be awarded to bring this
workshop to mission dioceses. Grant application deadline is March
26, 2015. For more information and to submit an online funding
request for this workshop, visit the Catholic Extension
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
Dioceses of Belleville and Springfield-Cape
"The session on [American English] pronunciation was the
most helpful part because my greatest concern has been effective
"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
"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."