News Story

March 13, 2017

La Roche College to Offer Summer English Institute for International Clergy and Religious

Two male participants of La Roche's Clergy and Religious Summer English Institute practice English language skills in the classroom.PITTSBURGH, March 13, 2017 – This summer La Roche College will prepare international clergy and religious to assume the challenges of ministry within the American Catholic Church.

From July 17 to Aug. 4, La Roche’s Clergy and Religious Summer English Institute will help clergy who have been assigned to work in U.S. parishes to improve their English communication skills. Established three years ago, the Institutes offers more than 60 classroom hours of English language and cultural instruction tailored specifically to the needs of a working priest. The curriculum focuses on accent reduction, targeted liturgical nomenclature, public speaking skills and building cultural competency.

Father Thomas Schaefer, Ph.D., founder of the Institute, said, “A concern of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops is that many international priests and religious are coming to the United States to supplement the lack of American clergy and religious, whose numbers have dwindled dramatically over the last 50 years. The key issue is preparedness. Are these clergy and religious ready – linguistically and culturally – to assume the challenges of ministry within the American Church? The reality is that many are not adequately prepared for this work. We created the Institute at La Roche to respond to this need for training.”

Participants have come from dioceses across the United States, as well as Colombia, India, Vietnam and Ukraine, and serve both the Western Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Byzantine Catholic Church.

“Many people may not realize just how difficult moving and working across cultures can be for these priests,” Director Laura Whitman said. “English language proficiency and accent reductions are one small part of a much larger cultural awareness and know-how that must be acquired in order to be successful within their parishes here in the United States. That is why our Institute is so powerful; it provides a safe place for clergy and their families to gain these competencies and cultural orientation within a low-pressure environment.”

Program activities include practice in writing and delivering homilies, discussion of etiquette in various social situations and direction instruction on American communication norms, including verbal and nonverbal messages.

Instructor Christine Yaklich-Miller said, “In addition to focusing on essential discourse including vocabulary, grammar, accent reduction and colloquialisms, we include day outings to local religiously associated attractions and events, allowing for a variety of meaningful learning activities. Priests also enjoy continuing their daily activities by having use of our beautiful Magdalen Chapel to celebrate liturgy. Having the ability to tailor the curriculum materials to focus on the needs of each student has received positive evaluation critique from clergy attendees, which highlights a goal that we strive for in our focus.”

The Institute also offers priests a cultural orientation specific to their unique duties, within the idyllic setting of its suburban northern Pittsburgh campus.

“It is worth noting that Pittsburgh has been the temporary home for hundreds of international clergy and religious, who have pursued graduate studies at local universities,” Father Tom stated. “The city also is a permanent residence for some priests who have served parishes for decades and now call Pittsburgh their home. With a long history of immigrant clergy and religious serving the people, Pittsburgh is a fitting place for such an Institute.”

Apply online for the Summer Institute by June 2.

About La Roche College: A private liberal arts college in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, La Roche College offers more than 50 undergraduate majors, six graduate degree programs and one doctoral program, with particular strengths in education, business, criminal justice, psychology, and health and medical sciences as well as interior design and graphic design. This residential college provides a vibrant campus community for more than 1,500 men and women enjoying 30-plus student organizations and an exciting NCAA Div. III athletics program. Founded by the Sisters of Divine Providence in 1963, La Roche College embraces its Catholic heritage while welcoming people of all faiths and backgrounds. With a legacy of social justice and a commitment to international exchange, La Roche College educates students to be lifelong learners and achievers in an increasingly diverse and global society.