Bishop David Motiuk
Western Canada's bishops will launch a pilot project in which Canadian clergy will mentor international priests starting even before their arrival in Canada, says Bishop David Motiuk.
The mentor will answer the initial inquiries of the incoming priest and then guide and assist him for his first year or two in Canada, said Motiuk, the Ukrainian Catholic bishop of Edmonton and president of the Western bishops.
The mentoring program would build upon the inculturation program for international priests that Newman Theological College has been running for several years, he said.
Bishops representing the 22 dioceses and Ukrainian eparchies in Western and Northern Canada met at Providence Renewal Centre in Edmonton, Feb. 26 to March 1. The Western bishops are one of four regional groupings of bishops in Canada.
Among their activities was participation in the Feb. 28 Mass at St. Joseph's Basilica that marked the end of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. (See story on Page 3.)
In a March 1 interview, Motiuk said another program being launched is to help parishes receive an international priest.
Often, priests need help in adapting to unique aspects of Canadian society and Church life, such as the increased role of laity and women, the role of parish pastoral councils and Canadian approaches to financial oversight, which may be different than in their homelands, he said.
The bishops' discussion was led by Sulpician Father Andrzej Szablewski, human formation director at St. Joseph Seminary.
They also received an overview of issues involving the immigration status and visas for international priests from Josée Marr, vice-chancellor of the Edmonton Archdiocese, Motiuk said.
"We could have two priests arriving on the same day walking out with different visas," he said. The number and type of restrictions placed on international priests can vary dependent on the good will of the border agent.
Another part of the bishops' discussion on international priests was led by Father William Hunn of Victoria, vice-president of the Western region of the National Federation of Presbyteral Councils.
The federation provides resources to help priests in ministry and is hoping to develop a document on international priests, the bishop said.
A separate part of the Western bishops' meeting involved a discussion of the new edition of the Canadian Catholic Health Ethics Guide, which was led by John Gilchrist of Covenant Health.
Much of the ethics guide is a resource for health care workers who have to make moral decisions in concrete situations.
However, a unique part of the new guide is the first part in which it tries to be a guide to a way of life for all Catholics that affirms life from conception to natural death, he said.