Seated side-by-side around the conference table, the immigrant priests and the women religious prayed an English prayer of thanksgiving for their ministry to the people of God in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.Hailing from countries in Africa, Asia and South America, the priest-participants in the archdiocese’s “Teachers and Preachers Learning Together” (TAP) program were joining with their elocution coaches for an end-of-semester wrap-up and fellowship luncheon at the Archdiocesan Catholic Center June 14.The “preachers” and their “teachers” had just spent the past nine months meeting in-person or online via Skype for a weekly one-hour session aimed at improving the priest’s English, or Spanish, used at Mass. More than one of the priests was working on improving his third language to better communicate the Word of God to their parish assemblies.A program organized jointly through the archdiocesan Offices of the Vicars for Clergy and Women Religious, the TAP pilot program began a year-and-a-half ago with 18 priests, each paired with a retired or semi-retired woman religious. A total of 28 priests have since gone through the program. Preacher-participants email their written homilies no later than Wednesday to their teacher, who corrects the draft for grammatical errors in advance of their meeting to polish pronunciation. Vietnamese-born Father Duc Quang Tran, an associate pastor at St. Lucy in Long Beach, told The Tidings his English homilies have improved since attending TAP sessions with Irish native Sister Anna Marie McLaughlin. “My pronunciation is better,” said Father Tran. “I also am able to better communicate in preaching.”“Father writes very good English,” commented Sister McLaughlin with traces of an Irish lilt in her voice. “Sometimes, there might be an error in the placement of the verb, for example. So, he writes the homily first and he sends it to me, and I correct it and then, when he comes, we discuss the corrections. It’s usually the pronunciation more than the written English.”Father Carlos Kim, who is the only member of his Korean family in the U.S., was ordained in Boston two decades ago and came to the Los Angeles Archdiocese three years ago. Fluent in Korean and English, he decided to enroll in the TAP program to work on his Spanish language skills, honed on vacation trips to Guadalajara.“When you learn a foreign language, one program is not enough; this is one of those programs that I have used for improving my Spanish,” said Father Kim. “Basically, this is learning liturgical language and culture of the church, so for those things, this is the best program because literally, we are using the language that we need, talking about the Gospel or the homily. This is perfect for the priest.” Vietnamese native Father Doan Pham, administrator at St. Anthony Church in Oxnard, also came to TAP to improve his Spanish, which he uses in Spanish Masses at the parish once or twice a week.“This program is really helpful for priests because they do ministry and have a lot of commitments and they don’t have to go too far” to get help in pronunciation, noted Father Pham, who also says Masses in English and Vietnamese. “I would highly recommend this program.”Teresa Chamiec, visiting from the Diocese of San Bernardino, which offers a language software program currently limited to eight priests, told The Tidings that TAP looks like a beneficial program for a large group of priests requiring pronunciation help.“I find that there really is a need and TAP is a very practical application of trying to help priests with their public speaking, accent reduction and development of pronunciation skills,” said Chamiec. “I think pairing [like this] would be a nice blending of having a combination of ‘touch and tech.’”Priests interested in more information on TAP’s next orientation meeting on Aug. 28 may contact Louis Velasquez in the archdiocesan Office of the Vicar for Clergy, (213) 637-7575.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0712/tap/{/gallery}