International Priests Serve as US Missionaries

International Priests Serve as US Missionaries

By Jordan Whiteko

Multimedia Content Manager


For decades, the Diocese of Greensburg sent missionary priests to different parts of the world to share the Catholic faith and American culture. During the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s, the world’s Catholic population increased by double digit percentages, but the number of priests increased by only 1%. That, coupled with a wave of baby-boomer priests beginning to retire in the United States, created a role reversal. Countries like the Philippines and India are now sending missionary priests here.

The International Priests Program was started by Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt nearly a decade ago and continues under Bishop Edward C. Malesic.

“I saw this shortage of priests coming at us like a freight train and knew there was going to be a crisis,” Bishop Brandt said.

He inquired about similar successful programs in New Jersey and California, then traveled to the Philippines to interview candidates.

“The family-oriented culture and extensive use of English in the Philippines made for an excellent match to the Diocese of Greensburg,” Bishop Brandt said.

Despite the nearly 8,500-mile distance from home, Filipino priests say God is always with them.

“You must bloom where you are planted,” said Father Alvin Cabungcal, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, Perryopolis.

Local families have embraced the international priests. Dr. Primo Bautista and his wife, Henna, of Greensburg, emigrated from the Philippines in the mid-1970s to further their medical careers; he is now retired from pathology and she from nursing. They help the Filipino priests in the Diocese of Greensburg find a home away from home.

The Bautistas often share their experiences assimilating to American culture. They also encourage international priests to support each other during long periods away from home.

“We want them to enjoy the time they spend here. That’s why we try to cook homemade Filipino food often, and we will be renovating our tennis court to make room for a favorite pastime — basketball,” Henna said.

That sparked the creation of a basketball league complete with jerseys and home-cooked food after the games.

Today, more than 20 international priests are serving as pastors or parochial vicars in parishes across the Diocese of Greensburg, aiding the continuation of our missions and ministries and ensuring that our Church is a center of prayer.


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