Foster Ecclesial Integration Rather Than Assimilation in
Church Settings with a Spirituality of Hospitality, Reconciliation, and Mission
1. To experience
a spirituality that supports intercultural ministry and reconciliation
2. To focus
on the developmental process for ecclesial integration and inclusion,
specifically in diverse parish settings, including competencies for
3. To identify
models for effective pastoral responses, principles, and practices that shape fruitful
ministry in intercultural settings
a clear understanding of the principle of ecclesial integration versus assimilation.
different parish models in the context of cultural diversity and a spirituality
of mission and reconciliation.
- Apply the
developmental process of ecclesial integration and its five principles to one's own
parish or Catholic institution.
This module offers an appropriate
spirituality to support intercultural ministries and practical applications. It
includes a developmental process for ecclesial integration, intercultural
relationships, and stewardship. The process shows how parish members reach a
new sense of Catholic identity, belonging, and ownership. The module also
explores generational differences among new immigrants and offers pastoral
principles to develop effective intercultural ministries.
The module is written mostly from the
perspective of the new immigrants and the communities that receive them.
However, for the purpose of our study of ecclesial integration, where it says
"immigrant," it can also be read "newcomer."
There may be cases where those new to the
parish family or to the neighborhood are not necessarily immigrants from other
countries but members of other ethnic, racial, or cultural groups. It may also
be the case that the "newcomers" are members of a community that has always
"been there," but they were either neglected or ignored and now ask for
Intercultural Ministry and Reconciliation
For intercultural ministry to be
effective, it will need a lived spirituality to support it. It is one thing to
have knowledge, ability, and skills in the area of intercultural relations, but
it is quite another to be motivated to act on what one knows. The Church
embodies a spirituality of encounter, conversion, communion, solidarity,
Pope John Paul II's apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America articulates this
The Methodology of "The Church in America"
″ Catholic identity:
Encounter with Christ leading to conversion, which means to "turn one's mind
and heart around."
The communion of the Church, rooted in God's love, offers all people the sense
of identity, purpose, and community they seek.
A firm and persevering determination to commit oneself (and a whole faith
community) to the common good.
The "Going Fishing" Response
A particularly poignant example of how
pastoral ministers sometimes remain paralyzed in the face of new challenges
like the ones posed by diversity is found in Chapter 21 of St. John's Gospel.
We read about the encounter of the disciples with Jesus after his Resurrection
and learn how he made breakfast for them.
by the loss of their Master, the disciples try to go back to what they did
before they met Jesus. In today's multicultural context, parish leaders may
also experience the "Going Fishing" response:
parish leadership may feel
because many new immigrant Catholics living around them do not go to Mass or
participate in parish activities
about the presence of new immigrants and wonder if they are "illegals"
immigrants feel discouraged by
difficult situation as foreigners in a foreign land
family, and immigration issues
Catholic parish's doors remaining closed to them (i.e., nothing is offered in
their language, access to parish facilities is denied, their faith symbols are not
welcome in the church, or they are relegated to worship in the basement)
Daylight breaks. A stranger appears on the shore and asks them
about their fishing in a caring and familiar tone. By doing this, Jesus helps
them break the cycle of their obsession.
obsessed with expecting new immigrants to just come through the door and fit in—speak
English, assimilate, and "be like us"
Sometimes feel that they
deserve to be excluded
An encounter with the Living Jesus Christ
is the point of departure for Christian discipleship. Some encounters with
Jesus mentioned in the Gospel are clearly personal, as when Jesus summons
someone to follow him (Mt 9:9; Mk 2:13-14; Lk 5:27-28). In these cases, Jesus
deals with familiarity with his hearers: "Rabbi, where are you staying? . . . Come
and see" In other cases, the encounters are communal in nature, as when Jesus
spoke to the Twelve: "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the
kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given" (Mt 13:11). The Church is
the place where men and women, by encountering Jesus, can come to know the love
of the Father (Jn 14:9) through the powerful agency of the Holy Spirit,
transforming believers and giving them new life.
It is only when they lower the nets on the other side, when they
are free from their obsession, that they are able to recognize who has been
standing on the shore.
leadership realizes that
presence of new immigrants in their midst is a blessing from God
need to reach out to them, for Jesus is also present among them
call to go out and make disciples is rekindled
themselves from thinking only about their economic needs and from their
homesick state of mind
■ Begin to seek God, rekindling
their hope for the Good News
Conversion was at the heart of Jesus'
message. Conversion, or metanoia
in Greek, means "to turn one's mind around." This means turning away
from sin and turning toward God. In an intercultural ministry, we turn away
from the sins of racism and prejudice. We turn toward the image and likeness of
God to be found in each human being, including the "other" and those who are
"different." The New Testament stories of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37) and
Jesus' encounters with the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mk 7:24-30) and the Samaritan
woman (Jn 4:4-42) are examples of what intercultural ministry should be trying
Conversion means both a conversion of our
hearts and the conversion of those social structures and biases that perpetuate
racism and discrimination.
Jesus becomes the gracious host, cooking for them and inviting
them to contribute their own newly caught fish.
leaders follow Jesus' example as gracious hosts by welcoming the new immigrant
community; taking into account their culture, language, expectations, and
contributions; and realizing that the "guests" should soon become "hosts" like
″New immigrants feel at
home in an environment of trust, kindness, and safety.
The communion of the Church, rooted in
God's love, is called to offer all people the sense of identity, purpose, and
community they seek. Claimed by Christ and baptized into the Holy Spirit, Catholic
people from all generations, cultures, races, immigration statuses, and social
situations have become full members of the Church, and all are worthy of the
love, the respect, and the support of the entire Christian community. In a
society that is increasingly diverse and to some extent divided, we must urgently
proclaim with joy and firm faith that through our "communion with Christ . . . we
enter into living communion with all believers" (Ecclesia in America, no. 33). Living
out a theology of communion entails creating greater harmony among peoples. It
does not call for the erasure of difference; rather, it brings differences into
harmony with one another. An intercultural ministry must be one that welcomes
the stranger and works out of an understanding of the Church as communion in
which collaboration is central to pastoral service (what in Hispanic ministry
is understood as pastoral
de conjunto). As such, it is a manifestation of the catholicity of
Jesus asks Simon, son of John, "Do you love me?"
reconnects the parish leadership to himself and to the community, more
specifically to new immigrants.
overcome stereotypes and fear by getting to know new immigrants and recognizing
each of them as one of their own.
leaders rediscover that the victim is made in the image and likeness of God and
is therefore of inestimable value.
reconnects new immigrants to himself and to the community, ending the isolation
that severs trust.
empowers new immigrants to reclaim their self-worth.
″God's grace restores
Pope John Paul II defines the virtue of
solidarity as "a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself [and a
whole faith community] to the common good; that is to say to the good of all
and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all" (Sollicitudo rei socialis,
no. 38). This understanding of solidarity is based on the belief in the
sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of every human person, which is
deeply rooted in the Gospel and articulated in Catholic social teaching. Solidarity
is manifested in a special way in advocacy: for immigrants and the poor, for
respect for life from conception to natural death, against discrimination, for
the integrity of families, and for justice and peace in a globalized world.
Jesus commissions Simon Peter by telling him to feed his sheep.
Once again, Peter is the Rock upon which the community is built. Peter's
vocation to care for Jesus' flock allows him to remember his own past in a
different way and to help create a community where trust is nurtured so that
denial will never happen again.
members of the parish community, both well-established and new arrivals, are
fully aware that they are called to take care of one another.
their separate stories and narratives, they begin to generate a common
narrative that is centered in the grace of the Resurrection and our experience
″We all partake in what
God has done for us in Christ.
The burning desire to invite others to
encounter the Living Jesus Christ is the start of the evangelizing mission to
which every Catholic is called. This mission is the grace and vocation proper
to the Church and her most profound identity (see Ecclesia in America, no. 68).
The entire Church is missionary by its
very nature. Each baptized person is called to missionary discipleship of Jesus
Christ. This means reaching out and establishing relationships with others,
especially those on the margins of society, the poor, and the forgotten.
Bringing the Good News to an increasingly culturally diverse population takes
us out of the church building, the parish facilities, and the weekly meetings
of parish groups. It moves us from pews to shoes to go two by two into the
public schools, the neighborhoods, the workplace, the movie theaters, the dance
halls, the labor camps, and wherever else Catholic people gather.
Reconciliation as Spirituality for Intercultural
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.
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:
of all, reconciliation
is the work of God, who initiates and completes in us reconciliation through
Christ. 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. The experience of reconciliation is the experience of grace—the
restoration of one's damaged humanity in a life-giving relationship with God. Humans
are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26). It is that image by
which humanity might mirror divinity, by which humanity comes into communion
with divinity, which is restored. That God would begin with the victim, and not
the evildoer, is consistent with divine activity in history. God takes the side
of the poor, the widowed and the orphaned, the oppressed, the marginal and the
imprisoned. It is in the ultimate victim, God's son Jesus Christ, that God
begins the process that leads to the reconciliation of the whole world to its
Creator and Lord in Christ (Col 1:20).
like manner, God begins the process of human reconciliation with the victim. 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.
Models for Ministry in
Shared and Intercultural Parishes
Parish life provides different approaches
for immigrants to adapt to the prevailing culture within the Church and in
society. Instituto Fe y Vida has identified some useful and currently employed parish
models, namely Americanizing, personal/ethnic, inclusive, segmented, mission
outreach, and integrated.
In the Americanizing parish, newcomers are welcome, but
they are expected to adapt to the language and culture of the dominant group. Consequently,
the parish staff need not gain special language and intercultural communication
skills. Newcomers, however, do not feel welcome and experience alienation.
In the personal/ethnic parish, the community is served
in its particular cultural context and language; leadership and parish staff
reflect the culture of the parish; and people from other cultural groups do not
participate in these parishes for the most part.
In the inclusive parish, newcomers are welcome, and
some measure of accommodation is exercised regarding the music, cultural
traditions, and celebrations of the immigrant group.
In the segmented parish, the parish becomes one of
parallel communities, each of which has its own staff.
In the mission outreach parish, the predominant group
tries to reach out to the other cultural groups, and so it develops some
language and intercultural communication skills.
In the integrated parish, all cultural groups are
equitably and suitably served. There will be residual resentment on the part of
the various groups, and some groups will need help embracing such integration.
These parish models constitute a developmental
continuum rather than separate modalities. This process is propelled by a
spirituality of hospitality,
reconciliation, and mission, and it presents four major thresholds: welcoming,
identity, sense of belonging, and sense of ownership. Each threshold
has movements or steps and requires certain communication competencies.
Ministry with new immigrant communities
seeks the healthy inclusion or integration of newcomers into the life and
mission of the Church, particularly the parish. In a recent study, CARA shows
that 33 percent of parishes in the United States celebrate Mass in a language
other than English, compared with 22 percent in 2000 ("U.S. Catholic Parishes
Grow in Size and Diversity," The CARA Report 16:3 [Winter 2011]). The great
majority of these parishes are "shared" by two or more distinct cultural/ethnic
communities. The shared parish model strives to achieve a high level of
ecclesial integration among its diverse members in a spirit of unity in
Ecclesial Integration and Inclusion versus
"Integration is not to be confused with 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."
Plan for Hispanic Ministry, no.
The Process for Ecclesial Integration and Inclusion
Here are foundational stages in the larger
process of ecclesial integration:
Movement 1: Reach Out and
Meet People Where They Are
Visit them with the Good
News of Christ.
Affirm their gifts and
Invite them to the faith
community as a home away from home.
Movement 2: Demonstrate Hospitality and Make People Feel at
Welcoming: Give them the ecclesial
space to be themselves.
Identity: Give themroom to develop their own sense of identity.
Trust and Safety: Enable them toadapt to a different culture from a
position of strength.
Movement 3: Organize by Developing Ministries and Ministers
Opportunity: They provide for their own
ministerial needs and aspirations.
Support: Parish staff and leaders work
with them to develop a comprehensive ministry.
Room to Grow: Ministries include the
four dimensions of Christian life modeled in the first Christian communities
(Acts 2:42-47) and explained in Encuentro and Mission (Living the Present with Enthusiasm,
Movement 4: Build
Relationships across Cultures and Ministries
Community: Share their stories,
religious traditions, and cultural richness with one another.
Celebration: Celebrate faith and life
together with other ministries and cultures.
Relationships: Build relationships,
community, and unity between different cultural groups and ministries of the
Movement 5: Champion Leadership Development and Formation
Mentoring: Learn and seek opportunities
for ongoing faith formation and training for ministry.
Access: Invest time and talent in
certificates and degree programs that are accessible.
Recognition: The entire parish
community recognizes and supports newcomers in their ministerial roles.
Movement 6: Open Wide the Doors to the Decision-Making
Decisions: Provide space at the table
where decisions are made on culturally specific ministries.
Leadership: Encourage an active voice
on the life and direction of the faith community as a whole.
Representation: Encouragea place in ministry leadership, parish
staff, and other decision-making groups.
Movement 7: Strengthen a
Sense of Ownership
Discernment: Determinemeaningful ways to be involved in the
life of the faith community.
Solidarity: Work towardresponsiveness from all parish staff
on the needs and aspirations of theirfamilies
Authority: Parish leadership and
structure recognize newcomers as members on equal terms.
Movement 8: Sow and Reap Full Ownership and Stewardship
Shared responsibility: Newcomers
contribute time, talent, and treasure.
Inclusivity: All parish members build a culturally diverse faith
community that is their own.
Discipleship: Newcomers are active
participants of a community of faith in which all cultures are constantly
transformed by gospel values to be leaven for the Kingdom of God in society.
Movement 9: Achieve Full Commitment to the Mission of the
Unity: Strengthen the unity of the
parish while honoring its diversity.
Mission: Be alert and ready to invite
and welcome newcomers.
Universality: Become "gente-puente" (a
bridge-building people) by ministering with Catholics of all cultural
Intergenerational Communication Among Immigrant Communities
Along with the dynamics of intercultural
communication that have already been explored in this module, there is a
pattern found in immigrant communities that cuts across other particularities. This
pattern involves the stances taken in first and second generations.
"First-generation" people are those who
immigrate in adulthood. Their life patterns and language skills are already
well in place before they arrive in a new land.
"Second-generation" people include those
who arrive in the new country as infants or children and those who are born in
the new country. Their developmental patterns and language capacity are shaped
by the new country more than those of the first generation.
Because their developmental years are
already behind them, the first generation tends to view and interact with the
new culture through the lens of their home country. They will often struggle to
keep those values and to transmit them to their children.
The second generation finds itself caught
between the world of their parents and the culture of the land where they are
growing up. This may lead to conflict at home with their parents. They
sometimes do not speak the language of their parents well, and they find
themselves preferring to speak the language of the new country. They may reject
patterns of the parents' culture (such as having their marriage partner or
their profession chosen by their parents). This is especially the case when the
home culture of their parents is collectivist, and the children find themselves
living in a predominantly individualist culture.
Outside the home, the second generation
may not receive acceptance from their peers because they are "different." They
may speak the language of the dominant culture with a slightly foreign accent.
They may be profiled as "foreign." Being caught in between cultures can create
special challenges for the second generation, particularly during adolescence
and early adulthood as their adult identities begin to coalesce. This reality poses
significant challenges for youth and young adult ministries in immigrant
Effects of this conflict are sometimes
seen in the third generation (i.e., the children of the second generation),
especially when the second generation has tried to jettison the cultural
identity of their immigrant parents. The third generation may become especially
interested in the culture and even the language of their grandparents, causing
tension between the third and the second generation.
Language is always an important factor,
and it is an index of where the first and the second generation locate
themselves vis-à-vis the two cultures.
These generational differences pose unique
concerns for youth and young adult ministries and Catholic educational systems
in immigrant settings.
Five Principles for
Achieving Ecclesial Integration and Inclusion
a vision of ministry based on ecclesial integration and inclusion:
and affirm cultural, linguistic, and racial differences as a gift from God, not
a problem to be solved.
the formation of culturally specific ministries, parish groups, and apostolic
movements as a means for conversion and community building.
the temptation to expect others to assimilate into a one-size-fits-all youth
group, program, or activity.
the inculturation of the Gospel in all cultures:
aware of your own cultural heritage.
the concept of inculturation
of the Gospel.
willing to be a bridge-builder
rather than a gate-keeper.
the tendency to see your culture as better or more valuable than the cultures
of others, and always avoid "we—they"language.
to the spirit of mission of the New Evangelization and its ongoing
transformation of all cultures by gospel values.
with the people, not for the people:
listen to and welcome the unique perspectives of the diverse parishioners you
are trying to reach.
them—from the beginning—in the development of plans, programs, and activities.
planning for others and judging them when they don't show up to your activity.
your understanding of ministry groups, programs, and structures, and cast a
the unique experiences, needs, and aspirations of each cultural/ethnic community
in your parish.
that the existence of more than one cultural group in your parish is a
the formation of culturally specific groups and apostolic movements.
the perception that allowing the formation of culturally specific groups
creates division or separation.
to creating welcoming spaces for all Catholic people living in your parish.
people from different cultures and ethnicities into leadership positions:
the way in which people from different cultures view leadership, organize
themselves, and make decisions.
indigenous leaders and mentor them into leadership positions in ministry within
their own cultural/ethnic community and in the parish as a whole.
a mentality of scarcity—"there is not enough for everyone"—and foster a vision
of mission and growth that generates more resources and abundance for all.
Brothers and Sisters to Us: United States Bishops' Pastoral Letter
on Racism in Our Day. Washington, DC: USCCB, 1979.
CARA. "Parish Survey Project," in The Changing Face
of U.S. Catholic Parishes. Washington, DC: Georgetown University,
Pope John Paul II. Ecclesia in America. Washington,
DC: USCCB, 2000.
Schreiter, Robert J., CPPS. The Ministry of
Reconciliation: Spirituality and Strategies. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1998.
Strangers No Longer: The Journey of Hope, A Pastoral Letter of the
U.S. Bishops on Migration. Washington, DC: USCCB, 2003.
USCCB. Reconciled Through Christ: On Reconciliation and Greater
Collaboration Between Hispanic American and African American Catholics.Washington, DC: USCCB, 1997.
USCCB. Asian and Pacific Presence: Harmony and Faith. Washington,
DC: USCCB, 2001.
USCCB. Encuentro and Mission: A Renewed Pastoral Framework for
DC: USCCB, 2002.
USCCB. Native American Catholics and the Millennium.Washington, DC: USCCB, 2002.
What We Have Seen and Heard: A Pastoral Letter of the African
American Bishops on Evangelization. Washington, DC: USCCB, 1984.