Catholics of various nationalities and ethnicities want to feel like they belong in local parishes — and when they are welcomed and accepted, the parish benefits from the gifts they bring, panelists said at a forum last month at the Mary’s Basilica in Minneapolis titled, “Building an Intercultural Church.
“We’re looking for ways to really build something new, to create a new tapestry, to weave together the richness of a community and the richness of maybe the community that’s already there and create a new dynamic tapestry,” said panelist Anne Attea, fdirector of training and social justice at Ascension in Minneapolis, formerly the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis director of the Hispano-Latino ministry.
The May 24 forum has been is part of the St. Paul’s Catholic Community Foundation’s “Giving Insights” series that explores the impact of philanthropy. The 128 attendees — about half watched live — were mostly parishioners from the archdiocese, as well as parish staff, priests and nuns.
Attea was joined by fellow panelists Akiko Maeker, Senior Partner and Coaching Director of Interculturalist LLC in the Twin Cities, which works with organizations on leadership and management performance, and Mar Muñoz-Visoso, Executive Director of the American Conference of the Secretariat of Catholic Bishops for Culture Diversity in the Church. Panelists examined the meaning and practices of intercultural competence and the ways in which Catholic parishes and other institutions can advance evangelistic goals by welcoming and helping new populations integrate into Catholic life.
Founded in 1992, CCF financially supports the spiritual, educational, and social needs of the Catholic community in the state. The foundation helps manage the financial resources of individuals, families, parishes, and Catholic institutions, and over the years has distributed $207 million in grants to causes requested by customers.
Facilitated by Chris Nelson, Vice President of Development and Donor Engagement at CCF, the forum was moderated by Fr. Dale Korogi, Pastor of Ascension and Executive Director of Ascension Catholic School, both located in a culturally diverse community of Minneapolis.
Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Williams, known for his support of building cross-cultural parishes by making them bases for evangelism in the streets and in people’s homes, was scheduled to moderate the forum but was unable to attend.
Fr. Korogi began the panel discussion by asking what evangelization looks like in a multicultural community and why intercultural skills are vital for the new evangelization.
Maecker said intercultural competence is the ability to change perspective and adapt behavior to learn from people of different backgrounds and to find commonalities.
An important, but not necessarily defining, cross-cultural skill is language, Attea said, noting that of the archdiocese’s 188 parishes, 40 (or 20%) of them offer Masses in a different language. Welcoming new Catholics is another cross-cultural skill, as is approaching a parish, whether a given parish wants them to assimilate or invites them to help build something new, Attea said. Parishes looking to welcome new parishioners may plan to pray together, invite different groups to share meals with a bilingual parishioner at each table, and facilitate parish work projects, she said.
Liturgical celebrations, such as a parish’s patronal feast, are also occasions to bring together a number of parish groups, said Muñoz-Visoso, who has experience in both Latino ministry and communications. . The goal should be full integration with welcoming, belonging and ultimately ownership, instead of assimilation, which does not encourage members to value their roots, she said.
Cross-cultural competence does not require parishes to know everything about new members, but it is an opportunity to recognize that together they are family, Muñoz-Visoso said.
“If we don’t welcome people, how on earth are they going to develop a sense of belonging? ” she says. “That ‘this is my parish,’ that ‘this is my community, that I can grow and prosper here and bring my strengths.’ And the sense of belonging is (when) one feels a sense of belonging and feels responsible for the well-being of that community.
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