Saturday, November 2, 2002

Asian-Americans having difficultly breaking into the leadership of large congregations....except in Catholic Churches.

While American-born Asians struggle to ascend to the pulpit of the largest Protestant churches, their presence has become increasingly more common in Roman Catholic pulpits. The difference is that Catholic congregations don't choose their priest; he is assigned by the church. There are Latino, Filipino and Indo-American priests presiding over large, multicultural congregations across the San Jose diocese's 52 parishes.In 1995, the Rev. Paul Duong became the first Vietnamese priest to head a predominantly white Catholic parish in Saratoga.``There clearly are barriers, but the thing is they welcome you with their spirit,'' said Duong, who speaks English with a heavy accent, having come to the United States in 1975 when he was a grown man. ``They've gotten used to it, my broken English. They understand.''

There are a number of possible changes to church governance that I've always thought would be helpful, but congregations selecting their priests and pastors has never been one of them. In some diocese, parishes are asked to list the qualities they want in a priest, but the trouble is, they all want the same thing: Jesus Christ, and he's not available. At least in the sense they want him to be. When a pastor or other priest becomes a problem in a parish, then the parish deserves a fair hearing from the bishop and a role in deciding whether he should be removed, but I really think that in the end, no matter what you do - select yourself or take what you're given, the end result is the same - everyone has to adapt and learn and change.

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