U.S. Catholic clergy shortage eased by recruits from Africa / National Catholic Reporter

During his 18 years in the U.S., Abanulo has filled various chaplain and pastor roles across the country, epitomizing an ongoing trend in the American Catholic Church. As fewer American-born men and women enter seminaries and convents, U.S. dioceses and Catholic institutions have turned to international recruitment to fill their vacancies.

Kwasi Gyamfi, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter

Fr. Athanasius Chidi Abanulo — using skills honed in his African homeland to minister effectively in rural Alabama — determines just how long he can stretch out his Sunday homilies based on who is sitting in the pews.

Seven minutes is the sweet spot for the mostly white and retired parishioners who attend the English-language Mass at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in the small town of Wedowee. ‘If you go beyond that, you lose the attention of the people,’ he said.

For the Spanish-language Mass an hour later, the Nigerian-born priest — one of numerous African clergy serving in the U.S. — knows he can quadruple his teaching time. ‘The more you preach, the better for them,’ he said.

As he moves from one American post to the next, Abanulo has learned how to tailor his ministry to the culture of the communities he is serving while infusing some of the spirit of his homeland into the universal rhythms of the Mass.

“‘Nigerian people are relaxed when they come to church,’ Abanulo said. ‘They love to sing, they love to dance. The liturgy can last for two hours. They don’t worry about that.'”

By Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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