Chancery staff participate in two-day, USCCB-sponsored workshops to help ministers reach out to the Church's 'cultural peripheries'

DETROIT — Leaders in the Archdiocese of Detroit are engaged in a program designed to bring about greater intercultural awareness in a world and Church that is ever more diverse.

Employees at the archdiocesan Chancery met April 4-5 and again May 2-3 at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit for a workshop sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops designed to encourage ministers to consider intercultural needs during their ministry.

Cecile Motus, a retired assistant director of the USCCB’s Secretariat on Cultural Diversity, led the day-long workshop in April, titled “Building Intercultural Competency for Ministers,” explaining how people who minister in the Archdiocese of Detroit can better reach out to people on the “cultural periphery” of the archdiocese.

“I think cultural diversity has triggered many responses from different dioceses, and some are more upfront with what they wish to do, and some are taking more time,” Motus told Detroit Catholic following the April 4 session. “In some dioceses, you have an ethnic composition — like Los Angeles — where there are a lot of activities and initiatives to be more inclusive at the diocesan and parish level.”

Motus’ presentation touched upon the cultural diversity in her home diocese of Los Angeles, which features prominent Hispanic, Filipino, Pacific Islander and Asian populations, challenging ministers in Detroit to think of the diversity in their own parishes.

Motus' presentation focused on helping ministers learn to identify and overcome cultural barriers in ministry at the parish and diocesan levels. 

“Leadership has to reflect the faces of the people in the pews, so they feel welcomed, so they feel they belong,” Motus said. “We have a long way to go, but this is not going to happen overnight. As a local church, we need to be intentional in seeking out leaders from different groups, inviting them to go into leadership formation programs. And on a second level, we need leaders from different ethnic groups to step up and minister to people of all backgrounds, to everyone.”

The workshops allowed Central Services staff to learn how to better accommodate people of different backgrounds. Motus noted some cultures prefer a more “collectivist” or communal approach to interpersonal relationships, with others preferring a more individualist approach. 

“We all need to look at the ways we welcome people, recognizing our own biases and tendencies,” Motus said. “Inviting people personally is the first big step, going out there and making them feel welcome through a personal invitation to come to Mass, to join the group for coffee and doughnuts and sit with other parishioners.”

For instance, ministers might take a closer look at incorporating traditions or customs from various ethnic groups into parish Christmas or Easter celebrations, especially when those customs involve the whole community, Motus said.

“Likewise, those who are coming from more collectivist cultures, who tend to be outsiders, they need to learn to speak up, to volunteer more,” Motus said. “Also, on the part of newcomers, for non-English speaking members of the parish, they have an obligation to gain a certain sense of confidence in stepping up in leadership positions, of saying, ‘Here I am; I want to be in charge of this volunteer program or be a secretary or a director of religious education.”

The two-day workshop is part of a bigger effort inspired by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron's pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel, to foster greater intercultural competency within the Archdiocese of Detroit, said Sean Calvin, associate director of ministerial certification for the archdiocese, and the person tasked with leading efforts related to intercultural competency for ministers. 

Central Services staff attend the workshop at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. Building intercultural competency is a key action step in Unleash the Gospel, Archbishop Vigneron's blueprint for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

“This is our very first step here to lead by example at the diocesan level and have people at Central Services receive this formation,” Calvin said. 

The program is designed to allow ministers “not only to live it ourselves by being more culturally aware and competent with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the archdiocese, but also to encourage and inspire parish leaders, school leaders and other organizations in the diocese to be doing this formation themselves and to better inspire their role in unleashing the Gospel,” Calvin said.

The Archdiocese of Detroit is blessed by the presence of a multitude of cultures, with Mass celebrated regularly in more than a dozen languages, Calvin said. He cited devotions such as Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Hispanic community as examples of the rich cultural diversity that exists in the local church.

“Sometimes a parish might say, ‘Well, there aren’t African-Americans in our parish, or there aren’t Asian-Americans in our parish,’” Calvin said. “Well, are they in our parish boundaries? Are they in our neighborhood? We need to realize that if they are in our boundaries, then we need to be welcoming and look at why they might not feel welcomed here.”

“As Catholics, we’re a worldwide Church, with many cultures, so we need acknowledge those realities,” Calvin said. “Sometimes a parish might say, ‘Well, there aren’t African-Americans in our parish, or there aren’t Asian-Americans in our parish,’” Calvin said. “Well, are they in our parish boundaries? Are they in our neighborhood? We need to realize that if they are in our boundaries, then we need to be welcoming and look at why they might not feel welcomed here. We need to look at who our neighbors are, who is in our backyard, and speak intentionally about building up the body of Christ.”

Calvin acknowledged there are various “personal parishes” — parishes set up to minister to a particular ethnic group or tradition, rather than by traditional geographic boundaries — in the Archdiocese of Detroit, but added even traditional parishes are making more of an effort to celebrate Masses and sacraments in different languages, and to promote saints of diverse backgrounds.

“The hope is, as we continue to talk about intercultural diversity, we will continue to be formed and reach all our constituencies and parishes in the archdiocese,” Calvin said. “But really it all comes down to person-to-person engagement and inviting others to express their faith with us. We need to realize that through all our differences, we in the Church are all part of one body of Christ, ready to proclaim his Gospel, in many different ways to many different people.”