Local News, State News

Immigration issues leave Roman Catholic churches priest-less

West Rutland and Proctor are two of the Vermont parishes affected by delay in green card processing

Significant clergy and parish realignments within Vermont Roman Catholic Diocese were announced May 3 as a result of changes to U.S. immigration policies and processes. Four international priests — three from the Philippines and one from Nigeria who were legally in the U.S. on religious worker visas — will be returning to their countries as their visas will expire before any application for green card status can be completed.

Along with normal retirements and transfers, this means the diocese will be losing six active priests this July. Some parishes will be without a resident priest — in the Champlain Islands, West Rutland, Proctor, Troy and Putney — for at least the next year.

“The immigration complication was completely unexpected. The first stage of the green card process which used to take three to four months to complete now takes 17-18 months or longer,” said Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne. “My staff began the process for the green cards in what we understood to be a timely fashion only to discover that we were at least a year too late for the priests to be able to stay. Even though these priests want to stay with their parishes here in Vermont, they must go home now so that they can return to Vermont in 12 months.”

In order to provide coverage for the other parishes in the Diocese, a significant number of priests have been transferred to new assignments and duties. “I’ve tried to do everything I can to make sure that as many parishes and churches will continue to have pastors to care for them and I think we will be OK,” he said. “I know it will be difficult for a while for those ‘priest-less’ parishes, but we will try and provide as much coverage as possible for Sunday Mass and the sacraments.”

Parishes that will be temporarily without a resident priest:

Our Lady of Mercy, Putney

St. Andre Bessette, Troy

Our Lady of the Lake, Grand Isle County

St. Stanislaus Kostka and St. Bridget, West Rutland

St. Dominic, Proctor.

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