Native Americans in feathered headdress as finials at the American College in Leuven
In looking over the pastor assignments that were announced this week I noticed something that was quite a bit different than when I was first ordained. Three of the ten appointed were born and ordained as priests outside the United States. It was a similar situation with associate pastors. We now have priests serving in the archdiocese from India and Korea, from Uganda and Mexico, among other countries. These are people who have served in their home countries as rectors of seminaries and cathedrals, principals of high schools and pastors of parishes. And now they serve here among us.
When I was in seminary in Belgium, one of the principal decorations of the seminary building where we lived and worshiped were native Americans in headdress carved into the stone. They dated from the days when the United States was officially mission territory. When the American College was founded one of its missions was to educate European born priests to serve as missionaries in the fledgling United States. By the 1950’s and 60’s things were different. The US was no longer mission territory and students at the college were native born Americans studying for thriving dioceses in the US. Meanwhile the US was providing missionaries to other parts of the world.
It seems that as we make our way into the 21st century things have changed again, and parts of the world that we once reached out to are coming here to serve. This parallels the Catholic Church in Louisville and central Kentucky becoming an increasingly international church because of immigration.
For me this is a good thing. It is a physical reality of the Kingdom of God that reaches out to the ends of the earth. As we approach the celebration of Pentecost, when the people gathered heard the gospel preached in their native language, let us rejoice in all of the languages and cultures, all of the ways of worship that are now a part of our local church. And let us give thanks for all of those who are willing to live their ministries as missionaries among us.