Ministry in a Multicultural Church
Cultural diversity is a reality that touches not only our country but also the Church. Parishes have become a home to people from different cultural backgrounds. Today in our parishes, we find people who speak different languages, have different cultural and religious traditions, are different nationalities, races, etc.
All of them are present in what is now known today as a shared parish.
How Should We Respond?
Now more than ever, ministers in the Church need to be equipped with a special set of skills that include cultural sensitivity and multicultural competencies. These skills will ensure that the Church will continue carrying out its mission of evangelization to all nations, as Jesus commanded his apostles, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)
Doing ministry in a multicultural parish starts with:
- A desire to relate and get to know people from other cultures.
- Respect for those who come from a cultural background different from your own.
- The awareness that the Church is Universal, there’s a place for everyone at the table.
What Can We Build?
Once this basic set of skills have been established, we can start outlining the more specific skills or competencies that are necessary when serving as a minister in a multicultural parish. This set of competences have been developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in the program Building Intercultural Competencies for Ministers and they include:
- Developing intercultural communication skills.
- Expanding our knowledge of those obstacles that impede effective intercultural relations.
- Fostering ecclesial integration rather than assimilation.
Intercultural Competence is the capacity to communicate, relate, and work across cultural boundaries. It involves developing capacity in three areas: knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
- Knowledge of the different dynamics, techniques, modes, and styles of communication in different cultural settings.
- Skills to build relationships based on respect for people of different cultures and ethnicities.
- Attitude of openness to other cultures, attitude of wanting to learn from other cultures, attitude of seeing cultural differences as a way of life not as a problem to be solved.
What Could Result?
As a Family Life Director serving in a diocese or in a parish, your ministry will be so much more efficient if you cultivate these skills and develop these competencies. You will be not only be more effective, but you will also be more faithful to the call we have received from the Lord, “that they all may be one.” (John 17:21).