By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor
The long-anticipated priest assignments were announced in parishes around the Archdiocese of Louisville on Sunday. Nineteen parishes will have new leaders by the time the assignments take effect in late June.
Overall, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz appointed 16 men to lead parishes as pastors and administrators and about a dozen clergymen to support positions in Archdiocese of Louisville parishes.
“They’re prayerful, thoughtful and selfless in their desire to serve the people of God in the Archdiocese of Louisville,” said Father Jeffrey P. Shooner, who as the vicar for priests assists the archbishop in making the appointments. “It’s a real privilege to be on the inside of that while they’re in discernment.”
Father Shooner noted that transitions can be hard on clergy.
“It takes a certain resilience on the part of the presbyterate to respond to the transitions and the internal and external challenges the church faces,” he said.
The presbyterate — which refers to the collective body of priests in the archdiocese — had 193 members as of April 15.
– Among them are 134 diocesan priests, 59 of whom are retired. Fifty-four serve as pastors, three as administrators, eight as associate pastors and eight don’t currently serve in the diocese. The total figure also includes the archbishop and a priest teaching at Bellarmine University. That number will grow on May 25 when three young men will be ordained to the priesthood.
– The presbyterate also includes 40 U.S. religious order priests, seven of whom currently serve as pastors and 18 of whom are retired.
– An additional 19 priests are in the diocese as “extern” priests who have come from other dioceses —mostly other countries — to serve here. Seven of them currently serve as pastors or administrators and seven are associate pastors.
By the time the appointments take effect, 15 of the archdiocese’s 110 parishes will be led by a missionary priest from outside the United States. They include two members of the Apostles of Jesus (A.J.) from Uganda and six Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (C.M.I.) from India.
In addition, two Conventual Franciscans from India serve as sacramental moderators of Holy Family Church.
These priests fill important roles in this archdiocese, where currently 44 percent of diocesan priests are retired and a third of pastors and administrators serve more than one parish.
Aside from their helpful hands, Father Shooner said these priests also bring blessings with them.
The archdiocese is becoming more like business and academic fields, where such diversity is common, said Father Shooner.
In fact, he said, the local church is becoming more like the worldwide Catholic Church, which is “one of the most diverse organizations in the world.”
“You have people from all over the world bringing their gifts to the community” of Kentucky, he said. “The missionary orders, in particular, are looking to engage the Gospel with people outside their homeland.
“To be humble enough to receive their gift and grateful enough to receive their diversity is a great blessing for us,” he said.
Father Shooner noted that the service of international priests poses some challenges, too.
“The biggest complaint we have is, ‘I can’t understand them well,’ ” said Father Shooner.
That problem should be short-lived, he said. The priests’ accents improve with time and their listeners begin to “tune their ears” to the accents, too, he said.
Father Shooner encouraged parishioners receiving a priest from outside the U.S. to consider their sacrifices and to build a relationship with them.
“To be willing to leave your family, your home, your way of life to be with other people — you are doing that because of love,” he said. “The pastoral hearts of the priests from other countries are full of love. In the parishes that have received them, the relationship of love overcomes the other barriers.”