by Peter Feuerherd, NC Reporter, 6/14/18.
For Hoover and Ospino, there are elements to watch out for as parishes attempt to incorporate different ethnic groups.
Let leadership emerge.
Ospino, a native of Colombia and professor of religious studies at Boston College, conceded that not every pastor or parish leader can be bilingual. But anyone with cultural sensitivity can allow leadership to percolate from ethnic groups.
Being hospitable doesn’t need translation.
Hoover once met a parish usher, “a person of great heart,” who knew no Spanish, but was able to communicate a warm welcome to everyone who entered the church via gestures and smiles.
Share faith stories.
Ospino, author of a forthcoming book from Fordham University Press titled Cultural Diversity and Paradigm Shifts in Latino Congregations, suggests that people from all groups in a parish occasionally come together to share faith experiences. Different views, for example, on how Catholics of all nationalities approach the Blessed Mother is a good faith icebreaker.
“Ask people to tell their stories,” said Ospino. “In religious education, some people go straight to doctrine.” Better, he said, to explore together questions such as “What does our Lady of Guadalupe mean to you?”
Be prepared for culture clash.
“For most of us, our parish is the Catholic world,” said Hoover. Newcomers from different cultures will, by definition, see Catholic culture and practice in a different light. “It’s the culture clashes that irritate people,” he said.
In his extensive studies of Catholic bicultural parishes, Hoover frequently finds himself in a bridge role. Simple items, such as the use of collection envelopes, carry cultural baggage. Mexicans are used to giving to the church, but not so much in weekly Sunday Mass settings. Tradition there focuses on particular celebrations.
Demographic trends are creating grief in the wider culture.
Immigrants are unsettled by their experience. Those who have been in the U.S. for a while can resent the loss of how things “used to be.” Multicultural parishes can be “crucibles of grief” for all kinds of cultural anxieties, said Hoover, an anxiety that is being played out in American politics and social life.
Parish leaders need to be aware that many white Catholics, perhaps the majority, voted for President Donald Trump. For Latinos, the president’s immigration policies are often viewed as a personal threat.