One Church Many Cultures The Good News of Cultural Diversity Fall/Winter 2020

Cultural Family Article: Asian and Pacific Islanders 

Faith Expressed Through Stories, Nurturing Leadership Among Us

By: John Michael Reyes, MDiv, Director of Prayer & Worship, Sacred Heart Schools

John Michael Reyes

For many reasons, Asian and Pacific Islander (API) Catholics can often feel like the "unseen" minority in the United States Church. Yet, a virtual gathering for Step 2 of the Journeying Together process birthed a renewed wave of energy that was palpable through the miracles of technology. Over two hundred API ministry leaders and young adults gathered to share the stories, concerns, issues and opportunities for growth that the diverse API communities offer to the U.S. Catholic Church. Among the participants included bishops and religious, lay ecclesial ministers ranging from diocesan directors of ethnic ministries to parish leaders, and to those involved in spiritual and cultural movements animating the life of the U.S Catholic Church. I was glad to see that those who work alongside API ministries and do not ethnically identify as API joined us with listening ears and hearts, and a space to recognize those moments of metanoia and where “God has sought and summoned [us] in many ways, and [we] have turned to seek him.” (RCIA 53)

Breakout rooms provided an opportunity for young adults to talk about their life, faith and even the realities of cultural appropriation, and the global pandemic.  I found myself, once again, like one of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. As I listened, I was surprised that my story echoed in others, that my heart was “burning” as I affirmed our common experiences.  For instance, we shared our appreciation of family, but are challenged by API values that are embedded in the cultural and generational differences.  I shared the dilemma of how the elders in my family “drop everything” for our clergy/religious - even at the expense of their self-care. I challenged the elders in our group, what are the implications for young adults, and even more deeper, how does this affect one’s baptismal spirituality as priest, prophet and royal person?

I am still unpacking the presents - think presence - of the API community and look forward to future conversations.  Thanks to a “word cloud” generated during the gathering, I can mystagogically reflect at how this experience was an encounter with God and helped deepen the understanding of my faith, my family, and my cultural identity. I give gratitude to Bishop Oscar Solis, Sr Myrna Tordillo, MSCS, the Ad Hoc team, and to my co-MC Eleanor Dias. I came out of this experience refreshed, surprised and less burdened than when I came in. This gathering gave young adult API Catholics and their coworkers in the vineyard an opportunity to take pride in the heritage Asians and Pacific Islanders have received from their unique experience of Catholic culture and the rich legacy they have to offer to the Church. Thus, the opening words, both, from the papal exhortation by Pope Francis and our liturgy that day, ring true this day and in the days to come, “Christ is alive!”