Overseas priests face outback culture shock

Fr Emmanual Gyamfi (ABC North Queensland/Tom Edwards)

Two Catholic priests from Ghana are facing a culture shock in their new jobs working in remote northwest Queensland. Source: ABC News.

Fr Daniel Djodjowu Mawuko and Fr Emmanuel Gyamfi are members of growing number of foreign priests working in remote areas of Australia.

Both men say they have had to be far more self-sufficient living in the Australian bush compared to their native Ghana.

“The challenge here is if you go to Africa, and Ghana specifically, every parish has a cook, every parish has people working there with the priest,” Fr Mawuko said. “But you come here and you have to do everything. Cook your own food, wash your own things, you have to do everything.”

The priests must also endure long and solitary drives in the outback to reach their surrounding parishes.

Fr Gyamfi said it was a big change from Ghana, where many parishes could be reached by car in a matter of minutes.

“It’s killing to be honest with you. It’s not easy. You’re tired, [you’ve got] back pain,” he said. “I would say the work here and in my country is the same, but the difference would be the long distances here.”

Towsville Bishop Tim Harris admitted a lot is expected of overseas priests.

“Just imagine coming from a culture and a country where’s there’s literally thousands of people at Mass, and they come here and they find six or seven at Mass,” he said.

“What would that do to anyone? They wonder to themselves, 'where am I'?’”

Bishop Harris said the Townsville Diocese had long struggled to attract local priests, as had many dioceses around Australia.

He said the diocese was also looking at using non-ordained ‘lay leaders’ to take the strain in parishes where priests were too busy or unavailable.


Overseas priests help address a shortage of Australian priests in the bush (ABC News

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