Urban Ministry Day focusing on inclusiveness, ecumenism - Catholic Courier

Urban Ministry Day focusing on inclusiveness, ecumenism

ROCHESTER — Beverly LaBelle said she hopes more people — particularly in the diocese’s suburbs — will take up Father Michael Upson’s challenge to explore their own cultural assumptions.

Father Upson, diocesan director of Black Ministries, presented the challenge March 12 during one of several listening sessions presented by diocesan Urban Ministry since last fall. He noted that people always need to be conscious of their own experiences and biases when interacting with individuals from different cultures, since those unconscious assumptions often are at the root of racism.

“Unfortunately, that’s an issue we find very difficult to look at,” added Father Upson, who spoke to an audience of about 20 people at St. Michael Church. “It makes us fearful. But if we don’t address those issues and the layers and layers upon lies, (then) erroneous information will be perpetuated in our country and in our church.”

Addressing such issues as racism will be part of the second-annual Urban Ministry Day, which is planned for May 21 at St. Michael, said Deacon John Brasley, the diocese’s coordinator of Urban Services. The theme is “Spirituality in the City” and will include speakers and workshops, he added.

One of the speakers will be Brenda Easley Webb from the Diocese of Buffalo who will speak about racism and its affects on ministry, Deacon Brasley said.

“Urban Ministry Day is really meant to be for a way for those involved in urban ministry to gather together and celebrate some of what’s happening in the city,” he said. “(We) get mutual support for some of the ministries that are ongoing and plan for the future in the midst of all the changes happening in the church, with reconfigurations and priest shortages.”

Feedback from last year’s Urban Ministry Day led the diocese to organize the series of urban listening sessions that began last October, explained Deacon Brasley. Among topics discussed during the sessions have been ecumenical collaboration, bridging urban and suburban churches, and becoming a more inclusive church.

“We can become better ministers with better awareness of these issues,” Deacon Brasley added.

LaBelle said it was good to confront assumptions as Father Upson implored his audience to do.

“We can still easily hurt other people with no intent to do it,” added LaBelle, a parishioner for about a decade at Rochester’s Blessed Sacrament Church. “We are the product of our upbringing. … But it always goes back to the individual. There are good and bad individuals in every group of people no matter their nationality.”

The Holy Spirit invites Christians — especially those who are in ministry — to live the fullness of the Gospels by following Jesus’ example of accepting all people for who they are, Father Upson noted.

“Each culture represents a face of God,” he said.

To work effectively, ministers need to reflect on the messages they have received from their parents and other people who have had an impact on their lives, Father Upson said. As individuals, most people’s life experiences tend to be very limited, he added.

“We have to know exactly who we are if we’re going to be engaging in ministry,” Father Upson noted. “Where exactly have we come from? How have we been conditioned all our lives?”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Urban Ministry Day will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 21 at St. Michael Church, 869 North Clinton Ave. Speakers will include Rochester Police Sgt. Carlos Garc√≠a. For more information, call diocesan Parish Support Ministries at 585-328-3210. Registration information also is available at www.stbernards.edu.

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