The Archdiocese of Perth has just received two priests from Burma.
Archbishop Barry Hickey was asked by two Burmese bishops to accept Fr Noel Tun Latt and Fr Richard Emyit to experience Western culture for six years.
Burmese Leederville parish priest Fr Oliver Lewis, the liaison between the bishops, said that while Burma is still very much a “closed state”, change is creeping in, and the Rangoon bishops want to know how the Church in Australia deals with changes in society in areas like politics, religion and theology.
Fr Emyit, a former parishioner of Fr Lewis’ in Letbadan, Rangoon, where Cyclone Nagris recently killed thousands, was sent to Perth by Bishop Gregory Taikmaung of Prome, while Archbishop Charles Bo SDB of Rangoon sent Fr Latt here.
They have a four-year visa but their bishops want them here for six. Perth Vicar General Fr Brian O’Loughlin told The Record that the natural growth of the Archdiocese and migration means “we are relying now and into the future on overseas priests and seminarians”.
“That doesn’t stop us praying and encouraging local vocations, but it means that we’ve had to supplement our numbers with overseas priests as the Archdiocese has not been able to meet its own needs,” the Vicar General said.
“We don’t see the remedy (for the priest shortage) so much in actively recruiting new Orders, although we’re always open to that, and the Jesuits have now supplied priests for Nedlands.
“More the case is that we’re recruiting seminarians from overseas and we welcome some priests who come here for pastoral placement, so we’re happy that the two Burmese priests are here.”
St Charles Seminary in Guildford has 18 seminarians, nine of whom were sourced from overseas specifically to study here, while others still are from overseas but moved to Perth earlier with their families for a better life.
Though the seminary lost two Australian students last year, it has picked up another two – one 25-year-old Australian, a trained dentist, being groomed for the Diocese of Bunbury and another from the Philippines is waiting for his visa to come through to complete his seminary studies in Perth.
Another student from Zambia who had been at St Charles’ last year was forced to return home with visa problems but is expected to return once that is sorted out.
The trend to source Orders and other priests from overseas continued after the loss of the Camillians to the Eastern states when Vincentians from Karalla, India Fr Joseph Rojan George, Fr Varghese Parackal, Fr Thomas Mankuthel arrived in February for healthcare chaplaincy based at Shenton Park.
They also service the parish.
They are due to stay for three years to run retreats, missions and renewal experiences, but that time could be extended.
Indian-born Fr Michael Raj arrived last year replacing Servite Friar Fr Robert Anderson who returned to the United States.
The most recent international addition is Indian-born Fr Justin Selvaraj CRS, who replaces Spearwood parish priest Fr Valerio Fenoglio, who will take responsibility for the Somascan House of Formation in Sri Lanka after spending four years in Perth.
The three Vincentian priests, the Samascan priest, Fr Raj and the two Burmese priests met at the Cathedral Office in the city for “pastoral introduction” with Fr O’Loughlin.
In other movements, Hilton parish priest Fr Giovanni Fontana CRS has stepped down after Pentecost Sunday to move to St Brigid’s Northbridge to service the Italian Apostolate after the departure of Scalabrinian Fr Antonio Paganoni for Adelaide.
Fr Benedict Lee will succeed Fr John Ryan as parish priest of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Scarborough from late May, having been assistant priest at Whitfords parish for the past five years.
He has been in charge of Myaree since Fr Larry Reitmeyer returned, in retirement, to the United states, having overseen the building and opening of the new Pater Noster Church.