One Church Many Cultures The Good News of Cultural Diversity Newsletter Spring/Summer 2021
Journeying Together - Planning Team Voices
Step Three: Intercultural Dialogues Engaging the Breath and Beauty of Our Church Through Dialogue
By: Barbara Humphrey McCrabb, Assistant Director for Higher Education, USCCB, Secretariat of Catholic Education
People of God from varied cultures and backgrounds are coming together for dialogue. As cultural families prepare to share their story… stories, young adults are invited to describe their lived experience of faith and culture. In hearing from each community, it is clear as Sr. Joanna Okereke, HHCJ, assistant director for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers, recently said, “We are a community of communities.” Throughout the Step 3 dialogues of Journeying Together, we have learned of over 500 native American tribes, the vast Asian Pacific Island communities of Hmong, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, Hawaiian/Kanaka Maoli, and the Black and African American communities, descendant from Africa and the Caribbean. We have become aware of the Migrant, Refugee and Traveler communities who encompass ethnic groups, migrants (those who harvest seasonal food, or work traveling shows like the circus, the rodeo, or race cars and mariners), refugees (those who suffer forced migration) and travelers.
The stories are beautiful. They stir our hearts. I cannot help but think of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “were not our hearts burning within us?” The witness of young adults across cultural families inspires us and ignites our faith. It is a tremendous gift to hear about faithfulness, courage, resilience, and love through the testimony of young adult women and men. It is also painful to see young adults struggle to be included, accepted, or trusted. Many labor to be seen and treasured as part of the body of Christ. Participants in these dialogues experience a sacred listening that reveals intimate ways in which God works within, through, and among us. The stories shared are a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the Holy Spirit that urges us on.
We are human. Each person uniquely made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:27). We are called to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mt 22:36-40). Love and dignity become apparent in the personal stories shared during these dialogues. The goodness of genuine care for one another and an unrelenting faithfulness to God is revealed in these conversations. The Spirit moves through these stories and in our hearts, as each participant reflects on the testimonies given and examines personal experience, considering how they are similar and ways in which they are different. Some common themes have emerged in these exchanges: the longing for inclusion, the hope for reconciliation, the grace of being seen and the ever-present love of God. These are moments to celebrate as we experience a unity of our faith.
As humans, we also fall short. As a Church, we also fail. Our failure, as people of faith, is evidenced in the testimonies of exclusion, of judgement or even harm. Stories that illustrate times when we individually or collectively denied the value of a culture, when we did not welcome our brother or sister, or when we could not see the other as made in the image and likeness of God. Those sharing their witness have spoken of exclusion, judgement, subtle off-handed comments, and outright prejudice. The experiences of our brother and sisters call us to reflect on the God-given dignity of the human person and to consider how we, as faithful Catholics and as a Church, are called to repent, to reconcile and to respond.
On this journey, we learn from one another. We are learning to truly listen… to listen well and deep before we act. Gaudium et Spes reminds us to live as the body of Christ, that when any one of us suffers, we all suffer. Pope Francis, in his book Let us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, writes “We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas. The aim is not to reach agreement by means of a contest between opposing positions, but to journey together to seek God’s will, allowing differences to harmonize. Most important of all is the synodal spirit: to meet each other with respect and trust, to believe in our shared unity, and to receive the new thing that the Spirit wishes to reveal to us.”
The Journeying Together process provides a unique synodal opportunity to envision anew how to be Church here in the United States of America. As this adventure engages young men and women and those who minister with and to them, we stand at an extraordinary threshold. In Journeying Together, we can see the breadth and beauty of our very diverse Church and we have before us a chance to radically love Jesus Christ. This process allows us to encounter one another, as Saint John Henry Newman would say “Heart Speaking to Heart.”
As we are called to love one another, and to make the struggle our own, we emerge from these dialogues with greater insight, perspective, and compassion. Through dialogue participants build the skill and capacity to truly listen to one another and to ponder, in our hearts, the experience of the other. The personal and sacred testimonies that have been shared and will be shared offer an impetus for our individual and collective prayer and discernment. These dialogues help equips us with perspective and insight to chart a path forward into Step 4 of Journeying Together, where we – young adults, ministry leaders and bishops - will discern necessary pastoral responses, means of engagement, and greater solidarity.
Through the cultural family preparations, the panel presentations, small group sharing, episcopal reflections, and prayer we are building up the body of Christ. We are fostering friendship as we encounter one another in faith. We are honing our pastoral sensitivities as we consider and discern pastoral needs and necessary responses. This dynamic process provides an opportunity to go deeper in faith and to broaden the reach of faith as we look ahead to the next step in the Journey.