Many priests in NZ now from overseas

Priests from overseas have been a blessing.

AUCKLAND — As the Catholic Church in New Zealand becomes more diverse, priests from overseas have helped ease the shortage of clergy in various dioceses.
Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn said priests from overseas have been a great blessing in general, and most of the other dioceses have welcomed foreign seminarians as well.

Priests from overseas have been a blessing.

“I have felt comfortable having immigrant priests, as long as the ethnic mix of the priests reflects the ethnic mix of the parishioners so that the priests will generally have some parishioners from their own homeland,” he said. “Culture
is very real and very strong. You can’t deny it.”
New Zealand Statistics Department figures show one in eight Catholics identify with at least one Asian ethnic group. One in 10 belong to at least one Pacific people’s ethnic group.
Bishop Dunn said he didn’t start out actively inviting priests from overseas to come here. “They had asked to come here usually because they have relations who have invited them to come. That’s exactly what happened,” he recalled with a smile.
Immigrants, he said, who learned of the shortage of priests in Auckland would volunteer their cousin who is a priest and invite them over.
Bishop Dunn said a number of priests from overseas have come to
work for three to five years to gain overseas experience in New Zealand, with permission from their bishops or superiors.
He noted there are a number of cultural differences that they have learned.
For example, he said, priests who come from very, very large parishes in their countries are not used to visiting parishioners
in their homes. “Whereas here in New Zealand, we encourage the
priests to go out, rather than just wait for the parishioners to come and see them,” he said.
Other priests do not know how to drive a car. “They either have a driver or use public transport,” said Bishop Dunn. Sometimes, he said, this could present a problem, especially in Auckland.
But, in general, he said the whole situation has worked out very well.
Although Hamilton diocese decided not to invite seminarians from other countries to train here, Palmerston North is fundraising for its seminarians, some of whom are from Vietnam. “They are a great blessing to us,” said Palmerston North Bishop Charles Drennan.
Bishop Dunn said Auckland’s seminarians are a diverse ethnic mix of
Kiwis. “They grew up here or they’ve lived here for some years. They were not necessarily born here, but they lived in Auckland for some years before they joined the seminary,” he said.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Jan Curran says

    One wonders if the Hamilton Diocese is Xenophobic – has an irrational fear of foreign priests. I am especially concerned about this because we have large numbers of Asian people in our diocese. I was completely dismayed to read this in a Waihi Parish newsletter where Mons Trevor Murray is the parish priest. Mons Trevor Murray is one of the main organisers of the Hamilton Diocese Pastoral Plan. What is stated in the newsletter – written by an Anna Holmes from the Dunedin Diocese – I find completely offensive:

    “Travelling around NZ at the end of last year I heard stories of clericalism everywhere. Priests who refused to acknowledge or affirm the ministries of the people; priests imported from other cultures who issued orders and expected to have their hands kissed by grateful parishioners.”

    The full article, which is a complete diatribe against the priesthood, can be read here:

  2. Greg says

    I think there is a strain of xenophobia that leaks though when there is a desire for everything to be laity led but gee whiz those foreign priest come in and muck up the plan. The lens is power-politics. All about power.

    The confusion over hand-kissing is not surprising either. The writer assumes that the hand is kissed because of clerical power rather than the real reason, which is because it has handled the sacred species. Compare to kissing episcopal rings, you’re not venerating the person but the office they hold.

    As to priests visiting homes. I have NEVER had a home visit from a Kiwi diocesan priest but I have been visited by all of my seconded foreign priests.

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