Minority populations continue to expand within many of the Diocese of Rochester’s 12 counties, as evidenced by recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates indicating that the number of Asians and Hispanics in some areas has risen by as much as 30 percent since 2000.
The demographic shift implicit in these statistics is “really shaping the church of the future and shapes it already,” observed Bernard Grizard, director of diocesan Parish Support Ministries.
In an effort to raise awareness of the diversity of cultures represented in the diocese, Parish Support Ministries’ Multicultural Committee has organized “Multicultural Convocation 2005: Becoming the Heart and Soul of the Gospel,” which will take place Oct. 14-16 at Nazareth College in Pittsford.
The first-ever convocation will include workshops relating to urban and migrant Hispanic communities, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and members of the deaf community. It also will touch on how racism affects issues of spirituality and faith in the Muslim religion.
The Multicultural Committee itself was formed as a way for the various multicultural services within Parish Support Ministries to communicate better and work together to benefit the community at large, Grizard said. The committee focuses on how the blessings and gifts of the various cultural groups within the diocese can enrich the broader community, he noted.
Grizard said the convocation will help the faith community focus on key issues regarding race relations and how they affect the church.
“We realize we cannot keep business as usual,” he said. “On a deeper level, we realize the deep connection between faith and culture. The Gospel has to be rooted within a particular cultural context.”
Jesuit Father Eduardo Fernandez, who will present the keynote address on “Spirituality Within the Hispanic Community,” agreed with Grizard about the importance of contemplating what God is trying to say to the Catholic Church through these new populations.
“We have to pay attention, in the words of Vatican II, to the signs of the times,” he said. “It’s important to remember that the U.S. Catholic Church has (been), and in many ways still is … an immigrant church.”
One’s culture is like the air one breathes, Grizard noted, and there should be no disconnection between faith and culture, with religious life on one hand and cultural life on the other.
“It all blends together,” he said. “And to take it apart, to disassociate it, would be almost like taking the fish out of the water, out of its environment. You just die.”
Father Fernandez, an associate professor of pastoral theology and ministry at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, said that multiculturalism or “interculturality” does not mean becoming something one is not. It also is nothing new for the church, which, he said, has always sought unity amid diversity.
“Quite simply, it means being who we are,” he said. “God chose to have us come into the world within a particular culture. This is a graced fact. How do we embrace the goodness or evangelical values found within that culture and yet allow it to be challenged when its values are not in conformity with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?”
When she learned about the convocation, Cris Wensel, director of faith formation for Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community in the Finger Lakes, said the variety of topics appealed to her.
“Any opportunity to broaden our education and deepen our understanding of faith is always important,” said Wensel.
Her six-parish community has seen a growing Hispanic population, particularly with the seasonal migrant workers in its region.
“I want to learn more about their cultures and understand their idea of church,” Wensel said.
The convocation also provides a venue to view the Catholic Church from different perspectives, added Wensel, who also has been exploring other faiths, recently visiting the Islamic Center of Rochester.
“The more we’re versed in our own religion as well as that of others, the better ministers we can be,” Wensel said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The deadline to register for the multicultural convocation is Sept. 30. The cost is $15 per person. For information or to register, contact Yvonne Moss at 585/328-3228, ext. 1328, 800/388-7177, ext. 1328, or firstname.lastname@example.org. To register online, visit www.dor.org/psm.
Convocation offers variety of workshops
The following workshops will be offered at Multicultural Convocation 2005:
* “Spirituality Within the Hispanic Community” by Jesuit Father Eduardo Fernandez from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.
* “Spirituality and the Multicultural Church” by Sister Teresita Weind from Notre Dame Spirituality Center in Ohio.
* “Diversity and Identity Among Hispanic Cultures” by Rudy Vargas from the Northeast Hispanic Catholic Center.
* “Do You Hear What I Hear?” by Deacon Patrick Graybill, retired chaplain at NTID at Rochester Institute of Technology who ministers at Emmanuel Church of the Deaf.
* “Remember Who You Are!” by Kim and Reggie Harris, a musical duo who will present a Gospel reflection.
* “Ministering to Asian American Catholics” by Father Peter Abas, who ministers at Rochester’s St. Anne Church.
* “The Impact of Racism on Ministry” by Kathy Constania from Cornell University.
* “Exploring the Hispanic Culture As a Blessing. Hispanic Culture and Spirituality Differences and Similarities” by Hector Rodriguez of the Catholic Migrant Farmworker Network.
* “The Muslim Experience and How Racism Affects Its Spirituality and Faith” by Dr. Mohammed Shafiq, imam of the Islamic Center of Rochester.