Recognising the needs of priests from overseas and those ministering to increasingly migrant-based congregations, the Catholic Church in England and Wales has introduced a new course specifically for them at the northern seminary of Ushaw in Durham.
The three week induction programme, endorsed and recommended by the bishops of England and Wales, aims to provide the priests with practical advice and information that will enable them to integrate into UK life and make effective use of their pastoral skills in an alien culture.
As well as input on the cultural and historical context of the English Catholic Church, students will get the opportunity to experience life in a parish, meeting with parishioners and joining in liturgical celebrations.
The course will seek to dispel unhelpful notions of Britishness, reports Independent Catholic News. These include stereotypes about elderly women cycling across village greens, warm beer and drinking tea on the lawn. Instead it will address questions of contemporary cultural identity and complex social issues in a modern liberal democracy.
The aim, say the organisers, is to give the overseas priests a practical understanding of what life is like for those ministering in the UK's diverse and changing society.
Students will look at issues affecting the Church in England and Wales in the third millennium - power, authority, the role of women, lay/diaconal ministry, ecumenism and much more. This is important preparation for future pastoral work and liturgical celebrations.
Top-up English classes will also be available, but students will need to have achieved a certain level of proficiency in spoken and written before enrolment. This year's course has attracted students from Eastern Europe, India and Africa.
The Rector of Ushaw Seminary, Fr Terry Drainey explained: "Having spent 18 years of my adult life living and working in Spain and Kenya, I have been immensely grateful to all those who helped me become aware of the rich differences of other societies and cultures. This is especially true in the sensitive area of pastoral care and ministry."
Fr John Dale, National Director of Pontifical Mission Societies added: "There has always been an exchange of clergy between countries; this year we celebrate 50 years of Fidei Donum - priests from these islands sharing their ministry in Africa and Latin America. This exciting new course will help clergy become confident and effective pastors in England and Wales. In turn, we will be reminded that we belong to a universal Church which is alive and full of hope."
For more information see http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk