Celebrating Hispanic Catholic Leaders for Justice

As we approach the V National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (Sept. 20-23, 2018), we celebrate the leadership and gifts of Hispanic Catholics in the United States.  The USCCB Dept. of Justice, Peace and Human Development is celebrating the contributions of Hispanic Catholics through our sponsorship of and participation in the V Encuentro and our ongoing work to invest in missionary disciples who put faith in action in their communities. Ana Chavarin, a mother of four and community leader in Tucson, AZ, is one such leader. Ana offers this testimony about responding to the call to missionary discipleship:

My name is Ana Chavarin. I am an immigrant from Mexico. I came to this country 14 years ago. I am a single mother of four children and I’m a parishioner at Saint John the Evangelist in Tucson, Arizona.

Right now, I have two part-time jobs and I take classes at community college, where I am studying to be a psychologist. Four years ago, I went back to school to get my GED. That’s where I discovered one of my passions: helping others. I got involved in the student council and organized service projects, but these ways of helping were not enough. I saw all of the need in the community but I did not know how to do more.

Then, one day the priest at my church invited us to read The Joy of the Gospel. Around the same time, I was invited to a leadership training. What I learned in training was just what Pope Francis said in The Joy of the Gospel. In this apostolic exhortation, the pope invited us to be a light to others and to walk the extra mile. He talked about how we should involve ourselves in the community, vote, protect those in need, and be a voice for people who are oppressed. It was amazing how everything I read in the document connected with the leadership training! Shortly thereafter I was offered a part-time job as a community organizer. This was a blessing to me because apart from working to help make changes in my community, I had another source of income for my family.

Now working as a community organizer, I have trained leaders in different parishes. Together we have fought drugs, we have done immigration forums to educate our brothers and sisters about their rights, we have met with the police department to make sure they do not do racial profiling, and we have organized a voter information project to educate people and encourage voting.

All of these things I connect with Matthew 25:35: “I was hungry and you gave me food.” Then Christ tells them, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” I see Christ in every person that we help empower. In every step in my work, I see Christ, and my love and faith grow day by day.

I invite you to put your faith in action and walk the extra mile. Our Lord sends us to pray but he also needs hands and bodies that want to walk the road to Jericho.

Going Deeper!

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Ana Chavarin

Listen to Ana’s testimony as part of this webinar on missionary discipleship by the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development for the National Catholic Association of Diocesan Directors for Hispanic Ministry. Use this handout to consider how social justice and Hispanic ministry offices can collaborate in your diocese.

Becoming One Church: Practical Steps for Multicultural Integration in Church Settings

As I wrote in the first post of this series exploring the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ resource Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers (BICM), “The Church is called to represent the communion of the Trinity, ‘to mirror that communion of Divine Persons in the way it welcomes and gathers all peoples – every tribe and tongue, people and nation (Rev 5:9)’” (BICM, p. 4).  After exploring the new intercultural knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed in ministry in the previous modules, in this last post of the series, we will look at Module 5 of BICM, which offers practical advice and next steps.

Module 5, titled Foster Ecclesial Integration Rather Than Assimilation in Church Settings with a Spirituality of Hospitality, Reconciliation, and Mission, begins by describing the experiences of both parish leadership and the “newcomer” to the community as they go through the process of integration through the spiritual terms of encounter, conversion, communion, solidarity, and mission.  Often, in the early stages of this process “New immigrants feel discouraged by their difficult situation as foreigners in a foreign land; economic, family, and immigration issues; the Catholic parish’s doors remaining closed to them,” while, “parish leadership is obsessed with expecting new immigrants to just come through the door and fit in—speak English, assimilate, and ‘be like us’” (BICM, p. 27).

Maybe you have experienced similar feelings and challenges in your own parish or ministry.  I know I have.  In parishes that are becoming more diverse, I’ve heard those who have been members for a long time express a feeling of being a divided community because of the new culturally specific ministries emerging.  There is an assumption that once the “newcomer” becomes accustomed to the community there won’t be a need for ministry in different languages or focused on different cultural traditions.

In the BICM training, we were reminded that the Church has always called for integration rather than assimilation: “Through the policy of assimilation, new immigrants are forced to give up their language, culture, values, and traditions . . . By [ecclesial] integration we mean that all [cultural/ethnic communities] are to be welcomed to our church institutions at all levels. They are to be served in their language when possible, and their cultural values and religious traditions are to be respected. Beyond that, we must work toward mutual enrichment through interaction among all our cultures” (National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry, no. 4).

That is not to say that integration is easy.  Module 5 describes a process of ecclesial integration that includes “four major thresholds: welcoming, Catholic identity, sense of belonging, and sense of ownership. Each threshold has movements or steps and requires certain communication competencies” (BICM, p. 30).    

In my own parish ministry, I often wished we could skip ahead in the process of integrating our culturally diverse parish.  After studying this process of integration, however, I learned to respect the stage that we were in and focus our pastoral planning on developing what we needed to move forward toward the next stage.  This helped me to recognize that the process we were undergoing was natural and that others had been there and successfully moved forward.

For example, instead of lamenting the fact that we didn’t have Hispanic leaders who were vocal on the parish council (which comes in the ownership stage), we focused our energy on building a sense of belonging and providing opportunities for formation.  After allowing the Hispanic community to develop a sense of belonging, I started to see glimpses of what is described as the later stages of integration: ″All members of the parish community, both well-established and new arrivals, are fully aware that they are called to take care of one another. From their separate stories and narratives, they begin to generate a common narrative that is centered in the grace of the Resurrection and our experience of reconciliation” (BICM, p. 28-29). There will always be room for improvement and there will always be people or groups of people within the parish at different stages of integration, but overall, I see our progress and growth as a community.

I hope this exploration of the Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers program has informed, inspired, and equipped you to “proclaim Christ’s message effectively among all nations” (BICM, p. 5).  May we all ″be willing to be a bridge-builder rather than a gate-keeper” (BICM, p. 32).

Going Deeper

For more information about how to assist your parish community with this process of multicultural ecclesial integration, and for pastoral planning strategies read Best Practices for Shared Parishes: So That They All May Be One.

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After working in Hispanic Ministry at the diocesan and parish levels in Western Kentucky for 14 years, Patti Gutiérrez now blogs about ministry and offers resources for Catholic ministries at http://www.patticc.com

Walking with Hispanic/Latino Missionary Disciples Who Witness to God’s Love

In less than two months, I will participate in the V National Encuentro alongside 3,000 other delegates and collaborators who are engaged in Hispanic/Latino Ministry in the United States. Inspired by Pope Francis’ social teaching and actions of compassion and care for our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable, the gathering’s theme is “Missionary Disciples, Witnesses of God’s Love.” This theme reflects the commitment Hispanic/Latinos have made as missionary disciples to go forth and serve those who are poor and suffering.

The gathering is an opportunity for participants to review and reflect on the experiences and significance of the four-year Encuentro process and generate ministerial best practices and concrete responses on how the Church can recognize the contributions Hispanic/Latinos make to parishes and dioceses and better support them. As a first-generation Hispanic/Latina immigrant, I feel honored to be part of the mission and planning process that has engaged thousands of Catholics across the U.S.

I currently serve on the National Planning Leadership Team, the Program Subcommittee Team, and Co-Chair the Planning Committee for the Justice and Peace ministerial breakout session. Each of these roles has allowed me to better understand the vision and objectives for the V Encuentro and to think creatively about the goals of the convening, one of which is to increase the participation of young and second and third generation Hispanic/Latinos. Integral to this experience has been ensuring that my work is informed by the local consultations that have happened across the country. This active listening process has allowed us to gain insights into the community’s needs and to identify areas for future growth and improvement.

The V National Encuentro is the culmination of a two-year discernment process of evangelization, mission, and consultation with parishes, dioceses and episcopal regions on the best pastoral priorities and practices needed to recognize the presence, gifts, and skills of the Hispanic/Latino community. This convening signifies a key moment for the Church as it discerns the best ways to respond to and support the multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and multi-generational community that is actively living out their faith in parishes and dioceses across the U.S. It’s been inspiring to witness how this discernment process has served as the catalyst for developing ministries among Hispanics/Latinos during the past fifty years and will continue to do so for years to come.

The Encuentro process has served as an opportunity for all Catholics to actively engage as missionary disciples and created the space to discuss the challenges and needs Hispanics/Latinos face. This has happened at multiple levels and the data coming in from the regional Encuentros is being used to inform the discussions at the upcoming national gathering.  The process has also inspired important conversations about the best practices and opportunities for future growth and development of the Church.

As Catholics continue to engage in discussions in their local areas about how to continue strengthening Hispanic ministry in their communities, I am especially grateful for the concrete actions the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Office of Education and Outreach has taken to value the gifts of Hispanic Catholics and help bridge some of the existing gaps in the Church’s ministries. One example is the small grants program we’ve developed to help Hispanic Ministry and Social Justice diocesan staff form relationships, learn common interests, and identify areas for collaboration.

A second example is that as Diamond Sponsors of the V National Encuentro, we have offered scholarships to lay or emerging leaders who are active in diocesan or parish peace and justice ministry to attend the convening in September. Our office will also be actively engaged during the national gathering by leading the Justice and Peace ministerial breakout session and sharing numerous bilingual resources at our exhibit booth. In particular, we will be highlighting Catholic social teaching resources that will be available to everyone and are meant to complement the work Catholics are doing to continue advancing the social mission of the Church and supporting our Hispanic/Catholic brothers and sisters.

As we get closer to the V National Encuentro, I am excited to gather with so many from across the country as we discern what it means to be a Church that witnesses to God’s love.  I hope to see you there!

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Ivone Guillen is the Catholic Social Teaching Education and Outreach Coordinator in the USCCB Office of Education and Outreach.

Solidarity and the Shipwreck: Transformative Education in Action

Bill Scholl, Social Justice Consultant for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

The prophet Nathan knew the power of a well-told story to transform.

After King David sinned against God and neighbor by sending a man to die in battle so that David could marry the man’s wife, Nathan realized that David needed to be told of his error in a way he could hear.  Nathan wisely petitioned the king, who loved justice, with the case of a poor man who was robbed of his only beloved lamb by a rich man with many livestock. Outraged, the king declared this rich man must die and make four-fold restitution. Nathan teaches towards transformation with the words, “you are that man” (2 Sam. 12:7). Placing ourselves in the story has the power to transform, and this is why Jesus so often taught through parable.

I have personally witnessed this power of story to transform from an exercise I developed to teach about immigration called “Solidarity and the Shipwreck.”  Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to an auditorium of Benedictine college students on the subject of immigration reform to kick off their Social Justice week. We did an abridged form of the exercise.  I invited ten students to come up and stand close together.  I then encircled the ground around their feet with a rope so everyone knew there was room for all inside. Next, I asked seven students to step outside the circle and set this scenario: the group within the circle become passengers on a luxury cruise near the Antarctic that comes upon a massive shipwreck.  The group outside the circle become drowning sailors trying to prevent their deaths by getting onboard.  Because the passengers have paid a lot of money for the trip, the captain lets them decide whether to save them.

I then asked the passengers on the imaginary ship what they decided. The faculty of this Catholic college will be glad to know that these students unanimously agreed to let all the drowning sailors on board, to much applause from the student body!

So, like Nathan, let me explain: as Americans, we are the ship; the drowning sailors are those who flee poverty, violence, or environmental devastation in their home countries seeking opportunities elsewhere; and it is this story that can open our hearts to the Church’s teaching on immigration.

The Catholic Church teaches that since all human beings are created in the image of God everyone has a right to pursue those things required for basic human decency (food, clothing, shelter, etc.) within their own country.  However, when someone cannot acquire those things needed for human decency in his or her home country, be it for reasons of a depressed economy or well-founded fear of persecution, then that person has a right to migrate. The Catholic Church upholds the rights of sovereign nations to secure their borders but insists that this right is not absolute.

Nations, particularly wealthy nations, have a moral obligation to accommodate immigrants in dire circumstances in ways that still maintain the common good of their own country; preservation of wealth alone is not sufficient cause to keep people out. Just as the captain of a ship coming upon the wreckage of a vessel much larger than his would have an obligation to take on as many survivors as he could, but not so many that his own ship would sink, so also should nations look upon preserving the rights of immigrants. Consequently, the bishops of the United States encourage all Catholics, all people of good will, and particularly U.S. officials to look at the immigration issue in humanitarian terms.

I have presented this scenario to many groups and it never fails to transform the discussion from a partisan perspective to a solidarity lens that looks to how we can pragmatically love our neighbor.  If you’d like to learn more or arrange such a dialogue go to www.archkck.org/socialjustice. Learn more about the Church’s teaching on immigration, and other ways to respond, at www.justiceforimmigrants.org.

Bill Scholl is the Social Justice Consultant for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

 

Living Laudato Si’, Three Years Later

Three years after the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, two of the document’s challenges still resonate as strongly as they did when I first read them: “the use of highly polluting fossil fuels … needs to be progressively replaced without delay” (no. 165) and “the duty to care for creation through little daily actions” (no. 211).

Those of us concerned about climate change often talk about the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground in order to minimize global warming. We focus on threats to vulnerable communities from sea-level rise, stronger storms, droughts, and extreme heat. We pay attention to the impacts that the process of fossil fuel extraction has on poor and vulnerable communities.

We also need to make sure that the shift to renewable energy doesn’t repeat the human rights abuses and environmental destruction committed by the fossil fuel industry. While large-scale hydroelectric dams, solar farms, and wind farms can be climate solutions, they also can destroy eco-systems and human communities if local residents aren’t part of the conversation.

The Sisters of Mercy had all of these concerns in mind when we asked our institutions and ministries how they are reducing their reliance on fossil fuels while remaining attentive to the needs of the communities they serve.

The results have been inspiring. Most convents, schools and universities, social service centers, retreat centers, and administrative offices reported institutionalized recycling and reduced use of plastics. Many have converted or plan to convert to energy-efficient lighting and to upgrade heating and cooling systems for energy efficiency.

Examples of these Mercy-led efforts to implement the challenges put forth by Laudato Si’ include:

  • The Convent of Mercy in Albany, NY, has entered into a contract to purchase electricity from a community solar farm being built on a Methodist church’s property about 20 miles away. This option supports clean, renewable energy for those who can’t install solar panels on their own property.
  • Misericordia University in Dallas, PA, will establish an energy-use baseline in the fall so that staff can measure and compare the campus’ carbon footprint as they adopt new practices.
  • Mercy Circle retirement community in Chicago, IL, which was built to strict energy efficiency standards, has vegetation growing on its roof for natural insulation.
  • Mercy Farm in Benson, VT, has installed 20 solar panels, purchased certified energy-efficient appliances, and has timers on thermostats to limit energy use.
  • Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, IA, has hired a sustainability director, is re-examining its 2012 plan to reduce greenhouse gases to identify next steps and is planting native plants to reduce watering and stormwater impacts.

Some Mercy facilities are reducing their fossil fuel usage in response to local, state, or national policies. For instance, Mount St. Mary’s Convent in Burlington, VT, benefits from a city government that has arranged for 100% of their electricity to come from nearby sustainably harvested wood and local hydroelectric, solar, and wind power.

It’s exciting to know—judging by the hundreds of Catholic dioceses, parishes, institutions, and organizations that expressed a commitment to addressing climate change by signing onto the Catholic Climate Declaration—that the Sisters of Mercy’s “little daily actions” are just a sampling of the collective efforts within the Church in the United States to respond to the challenges put forth in Laudato Si’.

Each of us can take steps to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Here are a few places you can visit for some ideas:

  • The Catholic Energies program, which assists dioceses, parishes, and institutions with energy-efficiency projects and solar installations
  • Catholic Climate Covenant for advocacy on climate change at the national and state levels, and education and liturgical materials
  • The federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, which includes a list of energy-efficiency products

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Marianne Comfort is the Justice Coordinator for Earth, Anti-Racism, and Women for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

Breaking Down Intercultural Barriers Through Encounter

My husband was working at a parish leading Hispanic Ministry and several times he would have people at the English masses ask him, “How’s ministry going with all those Mexicans?” Being raised in Mexico himself, he was bothered by all Hispanics being lumped together. Comments like these speak to an unfortunate lack of awareness of the diversity within the Hispanic community—and they also point to a deeper issue.

There are very real obstacles to intercultural integration in our parishes and ministries. In the previous posts in this series, we have explored diversity in the Church of the United States, dimensions of culture, and intercultural communications in ministry. Module 4 of Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers challenges us to take an honest look at the obstacles of prejudice, stereotypes, and racism. This module explains what was happening in the situation described above.  It is called in-group, out-group dynamics: “Those we do not know or trust and those who seem different from ourselves in whatever way (e.g. skin color, language, customs) constitute the ‘out-group.’  We judge these individuals by different standards than those we use for our own group” (BICM, p. 22).  Some of the common ways we judge the “other” are named in Module 4: generalizing, demonizing, colonizing (seeing them as children), trivializing differences, and making them invisible.

I have found that these dynamics are usually subtler than in my opening story, but they are very much present. I remember that when I first started meeting Latin American immigrants I was surprised at the level of prejudice they had towards other Latinos from different countries or socioeconomic levels. But if I take a moment to analyze my own tendencies, I can see these in-group, out-group dynamics at play inside of me as well. I can easily generalize about a group that I don’t know and yet see all sorts of differences within my “in-group.” I recognize a lot of differences even among European Americans from different socioeconomic realities or geographical areas I’ve lived in. Someone looking from the outside could simply see people with the same skin color, language, and cultural heritage and group us all together. After recognizing these dynamics at play, it’s easier to understand how unfair it is to lump all Hispanics into one generalization.

It is possible to make progress in overcoming these barriers of prejudice and racism. As Module 4 explains, it takes an intentional and counter-cultural approach that includes breaking the silence and denial that often surround the challenges of racism. One piece of the solution is addressing the racial anxiety described by Fr. Boniface Hardin, OSB: “Our racial anxiety arises from these three areas: fear, ignorance, and guilt—thus, the FIG Complex. Intercultural leaders are called to move beyond fear and anxiety as they lead the Body of Christ into the beloved community of the Fatherhood of God” (BICM, p. 24).

Another powerful way to overcome these obstacles is to encounter the “other.”  I have a friend who is an immigration lawyer and she has shared with me countless stories of U.S. citizens who come to her to find out how to “get papers” for their friend. The faceless, nameless “other” of the undocumented immigrant has now transformed into this faith-filled, hard-working, family friend named Juan. Of course, she has to break the news to them that Juan, like millions of others, has no line to stand in to apply for residency. The point, however, is that we are much less likely to fall into the traps of generalizing, demonizing, trivializing differences, treating the “other” as children or invisible if we have been intentional about spending time encountering people in the “out-group.”

In our parishes and ministries, it will take an intentional effort, starting with the leadership, to overcome our fear, ignorance, and guilt in order to recognize and confront our own prejudices. Only then will we, as people of faith, be able to begin the work to transform the systems and policies that have helped to sustain these in-group, out-group dynamics and historically made it more difficult for certain groups to succeed. By bringing these issues into the light and finding our voice to discuss and transform them together, we will be building up the Body of Christ, the one family of God.

Going Deeper

Visit the USCCB’s webpage on Racism for information on responding to the sin of racism and other helpful resources.

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Patti Gutiérrez, Diocese of Owensboro

After working in Hispanic Ministry at the diocesan and parish levels in Western Kentucky for 14 years, Patti Gutiérrez now blogs about ministry and offers resources for Catholic ministries at www.patticc.com

 

 

Religious Freedom Week: Serving Others in God’s Love

Drive through just about any American town, and you will encounter St. Jeanne Jugan, St. Vincent de Paul, Ven. Dorothy Day, St. Katherine Drexel, or Our Blessed Mother. Under the patronage of these saints—and many others—Catholics in our country have built and promoted an impressive number of institutions dedicated to charity and justice. From healthcare and education to social services and community organizing, Catholics have created a legacy of institution-building that we are grateful to inherit. These institutions play a crucial role in serving the common good.

Despite their contributions to the common good, some Catholic faith-based service providers find themselves in a precarious position.

In Philadelphia, the city recently barred Catholic Social Services from placing children with foster families, despite CSS’s long track record of successful placements. Although it faces a shortage of foster families, the city decided to shut out an organization that cared for over 2,200 children in the past year because the organization’s Catholic convictions about marriage and family do not allow them in good conscience to place foster children with same-sex couples.

Recent legislation in Oklahoma and Kansas protects the rights of faith-based adoption and foster care providers to continue to serve children without sacrificing their religious principles. But that legislative victory was hard-fought, and the law’s proponents were accused of being bigots for working to ensure that faith-based organizations are able to continue their work with integrity. We cannot take for granted that Catholic institutions will continue to have the freedom to serve.

The services offered by Catholic institutions are unique and irreplaceable.

As Steve Roach of Catholic Charities in Springfield, Illinois has noted, religious adoption and foster care organizations are well placed to recruit families from their own faith communities. The rise of the opioid epidemic has led to a corresponding rise in the number of children in the foster care system. The loss of faith-based service providers in places like Illinois, Massachusetts, California, and DC means that there are fewer avenues to recruit people of faith to serve as foster families.

Catholic organizations are often respected for their excellence even on secular terms.  But they provide something more: love. Catholic social services are rooted in the mission of Jesus Christ and thus animated by love. While the state is responsible for promoting the common good, it cannot provide love, which is a fundamental—indeed, the most fundamental—human need.

During Religious Freedom Week, the bishops ask us to reflect on the theme of “Serving Others in God’s Love.” Religious freedom is a human right to be “immune from coercion,” so that no one is forced to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs. The bishops are dedicated to encouraging religious freedom efforts for people of all faiths in all parts of the world. For Catholics in the United States today, religious freedom means that we have the space to build on our Church’s legacy of serving others in God’s love through our network of institutions.

We can advocate for that space today. The federal Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (H.R. 1881 / S. 811) would protect the religious liberty of child welfare service providers, including adoption and foster care agencies. Contact your U.S. senators and representatives and ask them to cosponsor the federal Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act.

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Aaron Matthew Weldon is the Program Specialist in the USCCB Office of Religious Liberty. Follow USCCB religious freedom activities at @USCCBFreedom

 

Share the Journey on World Refugee Day

In his 2018 World Day of Migrants and Refugees message, Pope Francis exhorted all members of the human family to recognize that, “Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age (Matthew 25:35-43).” This encounter is practically expressed, he goes on to say, in acts of welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating migrants and refugees which place no conditions or restrictions on our accompaniment.

On June 20, the international community will observe the 19th annual UN World Refugee Day to remind ourselves about the ongoing and life-threatening struggle of migrants and refugees and, at the same time, celebrate the multitude of gifts they bring to the receiving nations and host communities that become places of rebirth and new hope. Refugees like Walaa Ali, whose peaceful life was turned upside down in July 2007 when she was forced to flee her beloved homeland of Iraq. Her story epitomizes the courage and resiliency of all refugees, like the Holy Family, who undertake a perilous journey of survival.

The two-year Share the Journey global migration campaign launched by Pope Francis in September 2017 under the auspices of Caritas Internationalis, a worldwide confederation of Caritas and Catholic Charities agencies, comes at a particularly opportune moment in the history of the global migration phenomenon. Sadly, we’re witnessing the tendency of nations including our own to turn inward and seal their borders in the name of security and out of fear against the enormity of the plight of our desperate brothers and sisters, fully 80 percent women and children, who seek only protection and a place of peace for themselves and their families.

This campaign offers a multitude of personal and organizational opportunities to raise awareness of, advocate for, and be of service to some of the most vulnerable persons we’ll ever encounter. Here are just a few examples:

  • Celebrate a multicultural Mass or prayer service in your parish on or around World Refugee Day and focus the readings and prayer intentions on the scriptural migration narrative
  • Organize in-district Congressional member visits to advocate on behalf of migrants and refugees
  • Present Catholic teaching on migration to parish and school groups
  • Volunteer to assist newcomers in the initial stages of their journey to the U.S. through a Catholic Charities agency
  • Join the Share the Journey and Justice for Immigrants campaigns to learn more about migration and refugee issues and available resources
  • Participate in a local pilgrimage/solidarity walk to raise awareness and present a visible witness to the plight of migrants and refugees
  • Host a parish or community potluck meal with newcomers in your community and invite them to share their stories

How will you share the journey? In the words of the Holy Father, “The Lord entrusts to the Church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future. This is a great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom, and foresight, each according to their own abilities.”

May we heed this call with open hearts and open minds.

Jim Kuh

Jim Kuh is the Senior Director of Immigration and Refugees Services at Catholic Charities USA in Alexandria, VA.

Remarks from Fr. Matthew O’Donnell, the 2018 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award Winner

On June 13th the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) presented the 2018 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award to Fr. Matthew O’Donnell, the pastor at St. Columbanus Parish in Chicago, IL. Fr. Matt was honored for his exemplary leadership as his parish works to address the poverty and violence in their community. To learn more about the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award, please see the USCCB press releaseFr. Matt’s remarks offer reflections on the call to work for justice and peace in our communities:

Good evening to Bishop Talley, your eminences and excellencies, Ralph McCloud, and all that are gathered here this evening. Pope Francis, in reflecting on the Beatitudes in his recent Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, wrote “We need to be artisans of peace, for building peace is a craft that demands serenity, creativity, sensitivity, and skill. Sowing peace all around us: that is holiness” (Par. 89). These words speak deeply about the ministry I share in with the people of St. Columbanus Church on the southside of Chicago. The reflections of the Holy Father are a call to action for Christians, and all people of good will, around the world. They are more than words or reflections, for they are an invitation for each of us to grow in holiness.

My ministry is one that often makes me feel that I stand in the crossroads of life and death. This year there have been over 1,100 shootings in the city of Chicago, resulting in the deaths of nearly 200 individuals. Chicago is not alone though in facing the epidemic and sin of violence in our country. The violence in our country is not from guns alone. We know all too well the stories of our people who experience the pain and trauma from domestic violence, economic disparities, racism, unemployment and underemployment, underperforming school systems, lack of affordable housing, and the increasing hostility to the sacredness of life. The life and story of each victim of violence in our country is far more than the act of violence that either harmed them or ended their life. They are men, women, and children that come from every part of our country. They are our parishioners and neighbors, they are the people that come from our dioceses and communities, they are the ones entrusted to our pastoral care.

Stories such as these remind me daily of the great mission that Jesus Christ calls me to as I seek to live as a priest in our fractured world. We are invited to be artisans in our ministry that minister from a place of creativity to respond to the many challenges that we face. Our story, as the People of God, is one that teaches that God is love and that ultimately we are created in love, to love. It is when we live the Beatitudes we can help others to “Rejoice and be glad” (Matthew 5:12). How lucky we are as pastoral ministers, baptized believers, to be entrusted with the sacred ministry of listening to stories, encountering one another, and spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Church’s work for peace and justice is truly a ministry of hospitality and action.

Serving as a priest in Chicago allows me to hear the stories of so many individuals that inspire me to see the beauty and the hope that is alive in my city, in our country, and in our world. At St. Columbanus, we are committed to working to eradicate poverty. In 2017, our parish’s Food Pantry distributed 2.5 million pounds of food to our neighbors in two zip codes of Chicago. Our charitable work to feed the hungry is an important ministry of our parish, but we want to do more! Last year we established a Community Service Center that has several components. One program, Project Chance, offers skills training and part-time employment in our parish. From this, we have been able to offer our first full-time position for a custodian in our church and school. We will begin GED classes this fall and we are working diligently to open a coffee shop in our neighborhood. Our coffee shop, which we plan to name Holy Grounds, will focus on economic development in our community by providing several jobs, and it will be a place of hospitality that our neighbors can use for community meetings and programming. All of this reminds me, that we must strive with even greater zeal to make disciples, build community, and inspire witness.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development has been an important part of my life since 2005 when I served as the CCHD intern for the Archdiocese of Chicago. I recall visiting housing projects with Cardinal Francis George, sitting with residents at kitchen tables and listening to their stories. I remember reviewing grant applications and visiting community organizations committed to justice. I was inspired to be a part of a cohort of other young Catholics who desired to spread the message and work of CCHD as interns.

It was during my time as a CCHD intern that I discerned my vocation to the priesthood. The stories of people, the witness of priests, and the commitment of the Church in the United States to eradicate poverty allowed me to finally accept God’s invitation to explore my desire to become a priest. As a priest serving in the Black Catholic community of Chicago I am reminded daily of the important and sacred work that God calls me to. I would be nothing as a priest if it were not for the witness of faith shown to me by the people I am blessed to serve. At St. Columbanus it is part of our mission to be “an inclusive, welcoming, and loving community.” Our mission as a parish is rooted in the ministry of Jesus Christ and fortified in a spirituality that is “Authentically Black and Truly Catholic.”

I believe that a Gospel commitment to the poor can only come from authentic encounters with the poor. Such encounters require our presence and commitment to remain present with those who are hurting. This is something Cardinal Blase Cupich reminds me, and all in the Archdiocese of Chicago, of consistently. As the leader and shepherd of our local Church, he stands with the poor, even coming to St. Columbanus to distribute food to our neighbors, and calling for all of us to put in the hard work to foster stronger bonds of community. I hope the leadership I bring to my parish community is one that shows others what it means to live the Beatitudes.

Tonight, it means so much to me to be the recipient of the 2018 CCHD Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award. Cardinal Bernardin was my Archbishop growing up and his lessons on the consistent ethic of life inspire me to work harder to build a culture of life in Chicago. Cardinal Bernardin’s example is lived by so many of the Bishops gathered here this evening, and for that I am grateful. There are so many in the dioceses across our country who work tirelessly to show that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. It is when we work together, following faithfully the call to holiness that God places upon each of our lives, that we have the power to eradicate injustice and build the Beloved Community that God desires us to be.

Thank you to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the staff of CCHD for this award. Thank you to Cardinal Blase Cupich and the Auxiliary Bishops of Chicago who support me in my ministry. Finally, thank you to the people of St. Columbanus Church who have loved me and formed me as a pastor. May we all be reminded that sowing peace all around us is holiness. Thank you.

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Fr. Matthew O’Donnell is the pastor of St. Columbanus Parish in Chicago, IL and the winner of the 2018 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award.

 

Cultural Clashes During Meetings and What to Do about Them

Are you part of a shared (multicultural) parish?  Over the past several months, several posts have explored the modules of Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers (BICM), a resource from the USCCB.  As I noted in my last post, we all have our own cultural icebergs.  When parishes and ministries become more culturally diverse, we need intercultural knowledge, skills and attitudes to work together successfully.  Module 3 of BICM explores how different cultures communicate, conduct meetings and handle conflict.

What’s the difference?

I quickly learned the differences in meeting styles when I was living in Ecuador.  I was part of the young adult group at the local parish.  I was raised in the prevailing culture in the U.S. where meetings start at the agreed upon time and if you come in late you creep in, make a hand gesture to apologize and quietly try to figure out where the group is on the agenda.  In Ecuador, the meetings did not start until a good portion of the group was there.  Then, every single time a new person arrived, everyone would stop talking, the person would make their way around the entire room, greeting everyone individually (with a kiss on the cheek) and the meeting would continue.  This happened over and over as people continued to trickle in.  After what we learned in Module 2 of BICM we can name the dynamics at work here—a collective culture following explicit rules for social interactions, valuing relationships and harmony.   Although this dynamic is less pronounced with Hispanics living in the U.S., it is still very much present.

If you attend intercultural meetings, you may have run into the same issues that have challenged me when leading our Hispanic Committee meetings at the parish where I have served for many years. As Module 3 of the BICM resource explains, meetings in an individualistic culture tend to be more focused on accomplishing tasks, moving through an agenda and making decisions, often with a vote.  On the other hand, meetings of a collective culture prefer to focus on building or maintaining relationships and working together.   It is important to have a sense of harmony before the meeting begins and not end until it is re-established.  At times I can feel myself very frustrated at the slow pace of our meetings and not getting through the agenda.  But I can also recognize that once the entire group has processed the issue together, everyone has had a chance to talk, and a collective decision is made, then look out!  There is no stopping our Hispanic leaders once they’ve decided on a project.  Everyone comes together, lends a hand, and things that I would have stressed out about how to plan for weeks are done within hours.

How can we come together?

If you have a group of leaders from different cultures that want to have effective meetings, consider taking some time to talk through the five parameters of culture from Module 2.  Many of us don’t realize how much our upbringing shapes the way we do things.  Sometimes we assume everyone else’s iceberg looks like ours underneath.  Just sharing a little about the invisible parts of our icebergs can go a long way to creating understanding and cooperation between people of different cultures.

If your goal is to make a meeting of European Americans more open to a collective culture, here are some ideas:  1) Consider having a social time before the usual meeting time to share some food and talk about each other’s families in order to create a sense of community.  2) During the meeting, when an important discussion point is brought up, invite the elder from the collective culture to address the issue first.  3) Remember, those from a collective culture may need someone else to invite them to give their opinion.  4) Consider the power dynamics in the group and remember that it would be considered disrespectful for many cultures to directly contradict what an elder has said, so pay attention to clues in the conversation that may be more indirect ways of communicating.

A little bit of background work and mindfulness during a meeting can go a long way to successfully working together across cultural differences!

Patti Gutiérrez, Diocese of Owensboro

Patti Gutiérrez has led ministry at the diocesan and parish levels in the Diocese of Owensboro for 13 years. This post is adapted from her blog where she shares resources and practical advice for other intercultural.