October 27, 2023

Archbishop Thompson sees that ‘the face of presbyterates have changed’

By Sean Gallagher

When Archbishop Charles C. Thompson was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., in 1987, there were far fewer international priests serving in the U.S. than now.

“The face of presbyterates have changed,” he said. “There’s more of a broader sense of the clergy that you visibly see now in many dioceses.”

Some of that, he said, is due to immigrants coming to live in the U.S. The archdiocese has priests from Mexico, Myanmar, South Korea and Vietnam who serve people from those counties who now live in central and southern Indiana.

Other international priests have come here to help staff parishes as the number of native-born priests have declined. Serving here, Archbishop Thompson said, helps them gain pastoral experience that can aid them when they return to their home dioceses. (Related article: International priests bring broad talents, experiences to ministry in the archdiocese)

The salaries they earn can also help their families and home dioceses while they minister here.

Archbishop Thompson said that international priests serving in the archdiocese “probably get more [money] in a month here than they’d probably get in a year back in their country. That’s finances that go back to their diocese, go back to their community, go back to their families.”

Although there has been an increase of international priests serving in central and southern Indiana in recent years, it’s not an entirely new phenomenon.

Since 2010, the archdiocese has helped form for the priesthood seminarians of the Diocese of Palayamkottai in southern India, who are enrolled at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

The archdiocese co-sponsors the seminarians who have summer ministry assignments in archdiocesan parishes and receive other assistance from the archdiocese.

After they are ordained priests, these men typically return to their diocese in India for a few years of ministry. Then they return to the archdiocese where they minister in parishes here for a period.

There are currently five priests from the Palayamkottai Diocese serving in nine archdiocesan parishes. Some have ministered in the archdiocese for several years, such as Father Sengole Thomas Gnanaraj, the administrator of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Richmond and dean of the Connersville Deanery. He has served in the archdiocese for 12 years.

“They’re getting some very good pastoral training,” said Archbishop Thompson. “The Church in the United States is very, very well developed administratively and pastorally. They could take back that experience.”

While the archdiocese and other dioceses across the country have invited international priests to the U.S. in recent years, Archbishop Thompson remains committed to promoting native-born priestly vocations.

“It’s important that we never lose sight of our own,” he said. “It’s not either/or, it’s both/and.” †

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