One of our mission priorities in the Archdiocese of Dubuque is to teach stewardship as a way of living the gospel of Jesus.
Stewardship teaches us that everything we are, can do, and have is on loan from God for us to manage, as well as to use according to God’s purpose, which includes daring to care to share with others.
One practice of stewardship is hospitality: making others feel welcome and appreciated, and being ready to respond, even to anticipate their needs.
While we are all meant to live stewardship as a way of life, some parishes and institutions in our Archdiocese have an advantage over the rest of us. How so?
Because the priest assigned there comes from a diocese in another country: Father Charles from Ghana; Father Hilary from Ghana; Father Luigi from Burma; Father Donald from Nigeria; Father Andrew from Ghana; Father Raphael from Ghana, Father Mark from Ghana; Father Philip from Ghana; Father Homero from Peru.
So, those parishes and institutions should count themselves blessed, even favored to be able to practice stewardship so concretely.
The presence of these international priests is also an in-the-flesh reminder that the Church is universal, not limited only to my parish, or even to my archdiocese.
In addition, their presence here is a means for us to be missionary, to build up the local Church in a foreign country, which is a key indicator of the vitality of the Church in our archdiocese.
When we hear mission, most of us think in terms of sending a priest to a foreign country, like our priests who served and sacrificed in Bolivia for many years.
But we need to think creatively about other ways to participate in mission, for example, to establish a sister parish or a sister diocese relationship, or by receiving priests from foreign countries to minister here.
Yes, by receiving international priests here we are helping to build up the Church in their home diocese, for example: giving them an experience of the universal Church; broadening their pastoral experience; preaching mission appeals; perhaps sharing their salary; and by having the opportunity to pursue further study.
We surely need these international priests to provide ministry in parishes and institutions. But even when we have more seminarians and priests, we will still need them, for all the reasons mentioned above, so let’s make them feel welcome.
It isn’t easy for these priests to be away from family, friends, and their home diocese. And sometimes the welcome they receive can be stingy, maybe because they are foreign, or because of an accent. I felt that at times during the years I ministered in Rome, when co-workers or parish priests were cold towards me because I was American, or criticized me for my incorrect and accented Italian.
I can’t imagine that would happen here; on the contrary, when we practice stewardship as a way of living the gospel of Jesus, they will surely receive a warm welcome, appreciation, and ready help in any need.