International Conference Seeks to Enrich Ministry to Catholic Indigenous Populations
Representatives from Catholic Indigenous organizations came together with Catholic bishops and staff from the episcopal conferences of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States this week for the International Conference on Catholic Indigenous Ministry (ICCI).
WASHINGTON – Representatives from Catholic Indigenous organizations came together with Catholic bishops and staff from the episcopal conferences of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States this week for the International Conference on Catholic Indigenous Ministry (ICCI). The gathering in Washington was an historic occasion of dialogue, learning, and fellowship for those who work with Indigenous communities in the Catholic Church.
Hosted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Native American Affairs, the purpose of the week-long gathering was to share experiences, ideas, resources, and best practices encountered in the relationship between the Catholic Church and Indigenous communities.
“My hope is that the conversations that were started at this meeting will continue to grow and lead to deeper understanding and engagement with our Native and Indigenous communities,” said Bishop Chad Zielinski of New Ulm, chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. “I am grateful for the collaboration with other episcopal conferences to have meaningful conversations with representatives from the Native and Indigenous communities. Some of the topics we addressed dealt with history that can be difficult and painful to discuss, but we must be willing face these issues so we may also bring real and honest dialogue to lead towards healing, and a heightened awareness so that history is not repeated. But our gathering was also an opportunity for joyous celebration of the diversity of our cultures, and how the Indigenous communities enrich our shared Catholic faith.”
The gathering added an international component to the wider and comprehensive synodal approach that the USCCB’s Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church is taking to reinvigorate ministry with various ethnic and cultural communities. Included as a key part of the meeting agenda was a listening session for the bishops with representatives from Catholic Indigenous organizations, with the intent that it will help charter a path for ministry to the Indigenous at the international level. The topics of discussion emphasized the importance of being both Catholic and Indigenous, and included evangelization, education, reconciliation, and healing, inculturation, as well as social concerns such as poverty, racism, and the environment.
The meeting enhances the work of the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs as they prepare to present a new pastoral framework for Indigenous ministry, Keeping Christ’s Sacred Promise, that will be voted on by the body of bishops during their November plenary. This pastoral framework has been developed after extensive consultation with U.S. Catholic Native leaders and it is designed to refocus and reinvigorate Catholic Indigenous ministry in the United States.