What's New and Key Documents

New! Check out the Executive Director's blog post below ... "Reconciliation and Healing in Multicultural Settings" by Mar Muñoz-Visoso, MTS.  Also new, check out the One Church Many Cultures: The Good News of Cultural Diversity Fall/Winter 2021 newsletter articles 

New! The Most Reverend Nelson J. Pérez's full presentation to the General Assembly (November 17, 2021) and video

New Resource! Partners in Evangelization Chinese American CatholicsPartners in Evangelization is an insightful read on the dynamic and growing presence of Chinese Catholics in the Church in the United States. 

Approved Documents

CHAIRMAN’S REFLECTION

The Pain of Prejudice and Bigotry 

By: Most Reverend Nelson J. Pérez, Archbishop of Philadelphia

Chairman, Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church

Archbishop Nelson Perez

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Peace be with you!

One of the many blessings of being a bishop is the opportunity to visit parishes, schools and other ministries in our dioceses. Like all bishops, I enjoy being with the people I am called to serve. These moments are truly sacred encounters where I experience the presence of Christ in the people. Every time Jesus encountered someone in the Gospel, there was a change.

Whether it was the call of the disciples or the conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, lives were changed because of sacred encounters. In the midst of the pandemics of COVID 19 and racism, we experienced great loss - loss of life, loss of jobs, loss of learning and much more. Indeed, some relationships have been frayed and even broken.

Our bishops saw these moments of challenge as opportunities for pastoral care with renewed hope. We have issued statements, walked the streets and gathered our people for dialogue, healing and reconciliation. We know that we don’t address the divisions among us from the view of the world, but led by the Word made Flesh, Jesus Christ.

In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, I held a listening session with African American Catholics and learned once again the pain of broken relationships and racism that they experienced. Other members of the Body of Christ can identify with the pain of prejudice and bigotry as well. 

It was this experience that led me to action, to form a Commission on Racial Healing. It is a diverse group that consists mostly of lay faithful. They represent various races and cultures, ages and perspectives all with one purpose of helping us heal the sin of racism and see each other as sisters and brothers, children of our Heavenly Father. They are charged with the tasks to develop a plan of action to bring about sacred encounters. One concrete action the Commission is planning is to sponsor a concert of sacred music in our Cathedral with various choirs coming together to sing God's praises. However, what is unique about this concert is that there will be one choir that will learn music in different languages and from diverse cultures and sing together. Isn't that a taste of the Heavenly Choir!

In his encyclical letter, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis writes, “How wonderful would it be, even as we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters who orbit around us” (FT, 31). Sacred encounter is the challenge of our Holy Father, and indeed, the mandate of Christ. As we continue to work on the 2021-2024 USCCB Strategic Plan, Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Our Source of Healing and Hope, may each of us seek new ways to encounter each other as sisters and brothers, work for justice and be a source of healing and reconciliation. May Christ, the Good Shepherd, lead to a future full of hope.

A MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

New blog post from the desk of the Executive Director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church

María del Mar Muñoz-Visoso, Executive Director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church

Reconciliation and Healing in Multicultural Settings  

By: Mar Muñoz-Visoso, MTS

Dear friends in Christ,

You will notice that several articles in this issue have an underlying theme of healing and reconciliation. Each author approaches it from a different perspective, gathering the voices of different communities. Some approach the topic from a victim’s perspective, and some from that of one who has barely come to realize their own role in perpetuating racism, discrimination and prejudice. 

In an environment where hateful speech and hateful acts, lack of respect for human dignity, division and polarization run rampant, we felt the need to remind ourselves that ours is a ministry of reconciliation. As the Church worldwide initiates a process of reflection on “synodality as the path for the Church”, a journey we must undertake together, I would like to highlight three aspects of reconciliation and healing that are key for ministry in intercultural settings.

First, reconciliation as a sustaining spiritual pillar for ministry in culturally diverse contexts.We all have been victims and wrongdoers at some point in our lives. Intercultural contexts can sometimes give rise to situations in which people feel they have been wronged, treated unfairly, or dehumanized. That is why reconciliation is an integral part of our identity and well-being—of our very lives as Christians.” (Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers)

More so, in modeling that identity, we must also remember that reconciliation is “first and foremost the work of God, who initiates and completes in us reconciliation through Christ”, but also that God always starts with the victim.  In The Ministry of Reconciliation: Spirituality and Strategies, Fr. Robert J. Schreiter offers the following observation on the nature of reconciliation from a Christian perspective: “Ultimately, reconciliation is not a human achievement, but the work of God. Furthermore, God initiates the work of reconciliation in the lives of the victims. Ordinarily, we would expect reconciliation to begin with the repentance of the wrongdoers. But experience shows that wrongdoers are rarely willing to acknowledge what they have done or come forward of their own accord. If reconciliation depended entirely upon the wrongdoers' initiative, there would be next to no reconciliation at all. God begins with the victim, restoring to the victim the humanity which the wrongdoer has tried to wrest away or to destroy. This restoration of humanity might be considered the very heart of reconciliation […] It is through the victim that the wrongdoer is called to repentance and forgiveness. Seen from this perspective, repentance and forgiveness are not the preconditions for reconciliation, but are rather the consequences of it.”

Second, the work of reconciliation in multicultural and multigenerational communities means that, as ministers, we must attend to bridging the gap between the hesitant host (long-established community) and the reluctant guest (newcomers). “Along with hospitality, reconciliation is the other hinge that supports the process of ecclesial integration/inclusion…Listening deeply to the concerns and fears of both the longtime parishioner and the newcomers and accompanying them as they grieve the loss of what was familiar to them, is at the heart of a ministry of reconciliation in shared parishes.” (Best Practices for Shared Parishes; Part II)

My third and final point is that racism, and any form of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or cultural heritage, is incompatible with our identity as Christians, a sin that is against both the unity of the Body of Christ and the good of society. As the Catholic bishops of the United States remind us in Open Wide Our Hearts, their 2018 Pastoral Letter Against Racism, “… there is no place for racism in the hearts of any person; it is a perversion of the Lord’s will for men and women, all of whom were made in God’s image and likeness.” (Page 26). More so, as Christians “love compels each of us to resist racism courageously. It requires us to reach out generously to the victims of this evil, to assist the conversion needed in those who still harbor racism, and to begin to change policies and structures that allow racism to persist.” (P. 15). “To press forward without fear means ‘to walk humbly with God’ in rebuilding our relationships, healing our communities, and working to shape our policies and institutions toward the good of all” (P. 16).

As Catholics, we must strive to work for healing and reconciliation within our families, communities of faith, and society at large. “To work at ending racism, we need to engage the world and encounter others—to see, maybe for the first time, those who are on the peripheries of our own limited view. Knowing that the Lord has taken the divine initiative by loving us first, we can boldly go forward, reaching out to others…Only by forging authentic relationships can we truly see each other as Christ sees us. Love should then move us to take what we learn from our encounters and examine where society continues to fail our brothers and sisters, or where it perpetuates inequity, and seek to address those problems. (P. 19).

Knowing ourselves loved and forgiven by God, let us become the face of God’s mercy for others. Ours is a ministry of reconciliation.

Mandate


The mandate of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, and its corresponding Secretariat, is to be present on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference to the many cultures, ethnicities and races that today constitute the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. The goal is to encourage the inclusion and fuller participation of all God's People in the life and ministry of the Church by building up their Catholic identity and spirit of unity in diversity.

Throughout the United States we experience profound demographic shift as Hispanics, Asians, Africans, Caribbean people, and many other communities of non-European origin are on the rise. Today, as ever, the Church's mission to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and promote the life and dignity of each and every human being has much to do with insight into cultures. Catholic parishes are moving from mono-cultural patterns to ones we call "shared," that is, to parishes in which more than one language, racial or cultural group seek to celebrate the Eucharist and embody Christian community. For ministers and pastoral workers to be effective in this diverse environment, the right knowledge, attitudes and skills need to be developed.

Our Intercultural Competencies page explains the five competencies that were defined by the U.S. bishops in making “Recognition of Cultural Diversity in the Church” one of their priorities. The manual Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers has been developed and can be found online or obtained in print from USCCB's Store. If interested in hosting or organizing a training, please contact Yolanda Taylor-Burwell at @email or 202-541-3152.

The Secretariat of Cultural Diversity is also looking for opportunities to partner with Catholic colleges and universities, and other institutions of higher education to disseminate the competency guidelines. Contact the Secretariat’s executive director, Mar Muñoz-Visoso, for information: @email or 202-541-3350.

Additional resources are available such as the study of Best Practices in Shared Parishes So That They Mall All Be One for pastors and their team. This resource was developed in consultation with and from the experience of nearly 20 pastors of multicultural/shared parishes from around the country. And "Creating a Culture of Encounte Guide for Joyful Missionary Disciples"This resource is an adaptation of the national Encuentro process with the main goal to discern ways in which the local church can better respond to those who live on the peripheries of society.

Just as with the first evangelization, the New Evangelization compels us to go and make disciples of all nations. In the United States of America, we do not need to go too far to find people “of all nations.” That’s our blessing and our challenge.

Sincerely,

Mar Muñoz-Visoso, MTS Executive Director