A NIGERIAN bishop and two priests are expected to arrive in Brisbane in the coming weeks to consider a proposal to send clergy from the West African country to serve in the archdiocese.
The move, initiated by Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby, seeks to alleviate a shortage of priests in south-east Queensland.
It follows a visit to Nigeria in January by archdiocesan Moderator Fr Peter Meneely and the rector of Queensland’s diocesan Holy Spirit Seminary, Fr Michael McCarthy.
Fr Meneely said the archdiocese was hoping to forge a partnership with Umuahia diocese in Nigeria which would include a pilot plan to send two priests to Brisbane.
Under the proposal they would serve in the archdiocese for six years before returning to Nigeria.
If the trial is successful, they would be joined by other priests and seminarians from Umuahia diocese on a rotational basis over the next few years.
Bishop Lucius Ugorji of Umuahia will visit Brisbane with two of his priests for a week to consider the merits of the proposal after preliminary discussions with Archbishop Bathersby in Rome last year.
Fr Meneely said Nigeria had a surplus of priests and it was not a case of raiding their clergy.
Figures supplied by Umuahia diocese show that it has 120,000 Catholics, 44 parishes and 115 priests.
In 2005 the diocese ordained 14 priests, and has 100 students in its major seminary and a further 300 in its minor seminary.
Fr Meneely said Umuahia already had a similar arrangement to share priests with a US diocese and was sending others to Europe.
He said the Brisbane proposal to share priestly resources had benefits for both dioceses.
“In the past, Australia has shared priestly resources with countries all over the world,” Fr Meneely said.
“Now, during a time of significant shortage, we may well benefit from the opportunity to receive priests from West Africa.”
All priests sent from Nigeria would undergo a period of inculturation into the Australian Church and have time to adjust to the Australian way of life before starting to serve in the archdiocese.
Fr McCarthy said he was looking forward to working in partnership with the African Church and the Nigerian group when they arrive in Australia.
“It was great to go to Africa to visit a Church that is growing and alive,” he said.
“What has happened in Australia is that people seem to have drifted away from the faith dimension.”