A quick observation around the Diocese of Parramatta shows the cultural diversity of our priests and deacons. The clergy’s diversity is actually outdone by the cultural diversity of our wider parish communities! One place where I was parish priest, we could say good morning in our school in 32 languages. I don’t think us clergy could reach that, but nevertheless, our mix is very significant.
A group of brother priests from our mix has been working on some guidelines for a renewed approach to supporting clergy who come to the diocese from other cultural backgrounds. Part of the aim is also to support the Bishop and diocese by having the best possible processes of preparation, transition and review for all clergy involved in our intercultural story.
That’s not a one-way story, but involves us all, not unlike the wider Australian story in which newcomers, along with longer term and birth residents ideally all create the new and evolving reality of the community.
Integral to the new clergy guidelines, Bishop Vincent has appointed three people who are in ministry in the diocese to take on an added responsibility as ‘Intercultural Delegates.’ They are Ms Ana Pintos, pastoral associate, Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes, Fr Henry Huu Duc Tran, parish priest, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Seven Hills and Sr Grace Roclawska csfn, Holy Family of Nazareth Sister and Programs & Engagement Representative, Institute for Mission Parramatta.
These delegates will support the processes of new clergy coming into the diocese from the time before they arrive, through their transition and during their ministry. They will guide and oversee suitable ‘Accompaniers’ who will connect closely in friendship and in the day-to-day realities for newcomers to the diocese. The three Intercultural Delegates are each experienced in cultural matters both from their own personal journeys and in their ministry and leadership backgrounds.
They had an inaugural planning meeting recently with Fr Paul Roberts, Vicar for Evangelisation and Director, Institute for Mission Parramatta, who will be assisting them as they develop these important roles.
The next step is to meet with Mrs Maureen Sewell from the Bishop’s Office. This will link the Intercultural Delegates with the background visa, immigration and compliance issues for which Maureen is responsible, and who has long taken supportive and personal care about for so many among our clergy.
From among the new Intercultural Delegates, Ms Ana Pintos will represent the diocese at the upcoming conference of the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office. The August conference in Brisbane is titled “Missionary Clergy and Religious in Australia: Challenges and Opportunities”.
With thanksgiving for the generosity of Ana, Fr Henry and Sr Grace as they develop these roles, let’s give our cultural story as a diocese a frequent remembrance in the prayer of our communities.