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. 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 effectively.

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. 

Workshop Goals

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

  • produce spoken English in a way that is easy for Americans to follow

  • 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 printed materials assimilated from various cultural experts, 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 - 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. 

Session 2: Introduction to North American Speech Patterns - Consonants

A continuation of the first session. This session emphasizes sound and word level speech patterns with specific emphasis upon consonants. 

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 and intonation.

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: Cultural Patterns in the U.S. - Part 1

This session explores the concept of culture as a whole and explores the cultural dimensions of self, time, and control.  Examples of U.S. American tendencies within these areas will be demonstrated and compared to other cultures.

Session 6: Cultural Patterns in the U.S. - Part 2

This session examines the cultural dimensions of how people handle uncertainty and power differentials within the culture.  Examples of U.S. American tendencies within these areas will be discussed and compared to other cultures.  In addition, U.S. American cultural attitudes toward several cultural categories, including change, human nature, and taking risk with will be covered.

Session 7: U.S. Cultural Norms in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication

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 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. Participation is limited to 10-24 international mission priests. Material fees are $50 per participant. Travel expenses, meals and accommodations for the presenter are in addition to and not included in the cost of the workshop.


Training is typically conducted between mid-May and mid-August, but could be available at other times of the year depending on presenters' availability. To schedule a workshop for your diocese's international mission priests, please contact us via our web inquiry form or call us at (800) 357-8477.

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."