Immigration issues force major clergy, parish realignments
Significant clergy and parish realignments within the Diocese of Burlington were announced this past weekend in a number of communities 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.
“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.”
As a result, some parishes will be without a resident priest — in the Champlain Islands, West Rutland, Proctor, Troy and Putney — for at least the next year. 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
Parishes and chapels with clergy transfers:
Deacon Armand Auclair, temporary administrator of Our Lady of the Lake Parish, South Hero (effective May 1, 2021).
Father Brendan Murphy, OP, administrator of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Williston, and Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish, Richmond (effective June 15, 2021).
Father Richard Calapan, administrator of St. Thomas Parish, Underhill Center, and Assumption of Mary Parish, Cambridge (effective July 1, 2021).
Father Dwight Baker, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Shelburne (effective July 1, 2021).
Msgr. Michael W. DeForge granted senior priest status (effective June 30, 2021).
Father Henry Furman, pastor of St. Michael Parish, Brattleboro (effective July 1, 2021).
Father Karl Hahr, pastor of St. Luke Parish, Fairfax, and Ascension Mission, Georgia (effective July 1, 2021).
Father Lance Harlow, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish, St. Johnsbury (effective July 1, 2021).
Father Justin Baker, pastor of Christ the King-St. Anthony Parish, Burlington (effective July 1, 2021).
Father Rijo Johnson, SDV, administrator of St. Andre Bessette Parish, Troy (effective July 1, 2021).
Msgr. John McDermott, vicar general, director of the Catholic Center at UVM, Burlington (effective July 1, 2021).
Father Christopher Micale, pastor of Holy Angels Parish and Immaculate Conception (St. Mary) Parish, St. Albans (effective July 1, 2021).
Father Romanus Igweonu, parochial vicar of All Saints Parish, Richford, and St. John the Baptist Parish, Enosburg Falls (effective July 1, 2021).
Msgr. Peter Routhier, rector of St. Joseph Cathedral Parish, Burlington (effective July 1, 2021).
Father Sahaya Paul, parochial vicar of Blessed Sacrament Parish, Stowe, and Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Morrisville (effective July 1, 2021).
Father Agnel Samy, HGN, administrator of St. Charles Parish, Bellows Falls (effective July 1, 2021).
Father Steven Scarmozzino, administrator of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, West Rutland, St. Bridget Parish, West Rutland and St. Dominic Parish, Proctor (effective April 1, 2021).