slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor 12:13)
Objective: To promote knowledge, mutual acceptance, and collaboration among the diverse ethnic, cultural, and linguistic groups that form the faith community.
As young adults in today's Catholic Church, we do not need anyone to tell us that we belong to a church that includes many diverse people and cultures. We grew up in a church that prayed in the language of the people, that was more culturally aware of the diverse people who made up the praying community, and here in the United States, was aware of the influx of Catholics from around the globe. In one diocese for instance, Mass is celebrated every Sunday in at least six different languages. Young adults must continue, in the spirit of jubilee, to "open wide the doors" of our churches and our hearts to all those who are different from us.
Welcome and Prayer (15 minutes)
Welcome the participants and ask them to briefly introduce themselves. Start with a simple prayer thanking God for the gift of our diversity and asking for Christian unity amidst the diversity of cultures and peoples. Create a welcoming environment, including the use of religious symbols of different cultures, and use a song such as Jaime Cortés's "Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo/We are the body of Christ" (Breaking Bread, #416, Oregon Catholic Press, 1998) or other music appropriate to the culture and language of the gathered community.
Sharing Our Experiences (40 minutes)
Young adults are in many cases trying to find their own place in our parishes. We have a special affinity for helping all people feel welcome and become integral parts of our parish communities. Cultural, ethnic, linguistic diversity, and age is changing the face of our neighborhoods and communities of faith. This diversity enriches the communities in marvelous ways, but it can also create tension. To strike a balance among the needs and aspirations of groups that are so diverse is no easy task. Adequate scheduling of Masses in different languages, representation on the parish council by young adults and people of diverse cultural backgrounds, equal access to parish facilities, and contributions and use of economic resources are some of the areas of frequent tension within the faith community. In the social arena, racism, poverty, and violence are a source of great preoccupation. To know the culture and to be aware of the aspirations and the challenges faced by the different members of the community creates opportunities for understanding and mutual acceptance. Open dialogue lessens tensions, overcomes fears, and helps to build a strong and united community. We are all called to form a single Church, nourished by the same Spirit (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, no. 34). We strive to create a place where all are welcome, with no regard to race, color, or age. This call has a special importance at the dawn of the third millennium. To adequately respond to this call, we must open the doors, both to Christ and to his message of unity that comes to us through the Holy Spirit (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, no. 44).
- What positive experiences have you had in relation to persons of different ethnic or cultural groups?
- What attitudes, behaviors, and activities create unity and harmony amidst diversity?
- What attitudes or behaviors create tensions among the different groups of the community?
Reflecting on Our Faith Tradition (40 minutes)
The biblical story of the Tower of Babel is a symbol of proud societies choosing to separate themselves from God's plan (Gn 11:1-11). God created a richly diverse humanity and invited them to share the gifts of nature and of one another. But the domination of one group over others led to confusion between different groups, cultures, and languages. In contrast, the Feast of Pentecost offers a redeeming vision of human diversity. It is a vision of unity among peoples that goes far beyond their differences and in which all share the same human dignity. The Holy Spirit empowered the apostles to preach to people of many nations and different languages, creating among them a new community united by the same Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit and the intimate connection of the members of the faith community give unity to the body, and in this way, stimulate and produce love between the believers (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, no. 45). A strong temptation in a diverse society is to expect uniformity from all its members, in order to be a community without tensions. This expectation to assimilate can create a great deal of division and inequity. This was the case at the beginning of the Church when it was expected that the pagans fulfill the requirements of the Mosaic law before they became Christians. In discussing this issue, the apostles affirmed that it is the Holy Spirit who brings true unity to all believers, and not specific Jewish customs (Acts 15:1-12).
This issue of fulfilling the requirements of Mosaic law in order to be accepted as a Christian was the main reason to convene the first ecumenical council of the Church. This council pointed out the need to distinguish between what is essential to our faith and what is a culturally bound way of expressing, organizing, or celebrating our faith in a particular country or culture. God's incarnation in the person of Jesus Christ speaks to us of the universality of God's redeeming action and of our faith, and how our faith is expressed and lived out in specific ways within each culture.
The Son of God, by taking upon himself our human nature, became incarnate within a particular people, even though his redemptive death brought salvation to all people....the gift of his Spirit and his love are meant for each and every people and culture, in order to bring them all into unity....For this to happen, it is necessary to inculturate preaching in such a way that the Gospel is proclaimed in the language and in the culture of its hearers (Ecclesia in America, no. 70).Just because a Catholic does not understand or express his or her belonging to a faith community in a way that is conventional to a specific culture, this does not mean that this person is less Catholic than the one who does. To understand and respect this distinction is key to achieving the U.S. bishop's goal to foster cultural diversity within the unity of the Church (Go and Make Disciples, p. 18).
- What are some cultural expressions or ways in which the various groups in your parish express their Catholic faith tradition?
- What were some cultural expressions or traditions that you grew up with as a child?
- How are these similar or different from the way you are accustomed to expressing your faith tradition?
- How does the Spirit of Pentecost bring Christian unity to the diverse cultural, ethnic, and linguistic groups in the different areas of parish life?
- To what extent are different cultural and ethnic groups actively involved in the decision-making process of your faith community and in civic society?
Putting Our Faith into Action (40 minutes)
The event of Pentecost demonstrates that language differences, or any other difference, will not be a barrier in the community that Christ has formed (cf. Many Members, One Body, no 6). Faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Church affirms the dignity of everyone and presents the diversity of races, cultures, and languages as a gift from God, not as a problem. In a call toward unity in Christ, the bishops of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston wrote a pastoral letter in 1994 entitled Many Members, One Body. In that letter, the bishops advise us that we cannot be satisfied with a coexistence with different cultures from a distance or just with mutual toleration. The catholicity of the Church and our union with Christ require that the different cultures get to know each other and form relationships in the pastoral, liturgical, and social framework (Many Members, One Body, no. 26). The bishops exhort the faithful to confront "each case of prejudice, each cultural stereotype and each expression of racism that divide the people of God." They also invite them to celebrate the differences that make the Church a beautiful tapestry in which each community shares its unique experience of God (Many Members, One Body, no. 27).
- Brainstorm actions and projects that promote collaboration and Christian unity among different cultural, ethnic, and linguistic groups in your community. (One example of such an action is to participate in the diocesan eucharistic celebration of the jubilee year.) It is important to identify at least one action in each of the following areas of Christian life:
- Religious education and catechesis
- Building community and leadership development
- Service and advocacy
- Decision-making process
- Organize actions according to their priority and identify lead agents for each action that the community decides to take.
Gathering Our Experiences (15 minutes)
- What helped you participate in this session and what made it difficult?
- What did you learn and accept about others?
- What did you learn about your faith?
- How did people make a commitment to implement a course of action?
Celebrating Our Faith as a Community (25 minutes)
- Opening hymn/song
- Invocation or invitation to prayer
- Scriptural reading
- Prayer of thanksgiving or petition
- The Lord's Prayer
- Final prayer and sign of peace
- Closing hymn
For Those Attending WYD 2000
"Dear young people, may it be your holy ambition to be holy, as he is holy" (Message of the Holy Father to the Youth of the World on the occasion of the 15th World Youth Day). With these words our Holy Father calls us to holiness and calls us to Rome. Many of you will be able to travel to Rome for the 15th World Youth Day. Many others will be linked in prayer (and by cable television) to the events that will take place in the eternal city in the very heart of the Jubilee. This celebration and indeed the Jubilee comes only four short years after our U. S. Bishops adopted the pastoral plan for young adults, Sons and Daughters of the Light. In this document, the Bishops encouraged us to connect ourselves with Jesus Christ, the Church, the mission of the Church, and with each other. World Youth Day and this Jubilee Year will allow us many opportunities to put into action the challenges of our bishops and connect ourselves to our parishes and the Church. John Paul II has asked us to be "intrepid apostles of his Gospel and builders of a new humanity." Are we up for the challenge? Can we stand with other young adults from around the world and be bold in our proclamation of Jubilee and our faith?
John Paul II also encourages us to take Mary as a model. May we learn to discern God's will in our lives as Mary did. May we willingly and enthusiastically say yes to all God has planned for us as Mary did. And finally, may we bear Christ into our world just as Mary did.
- How will you prepare for your pilgrimage before you ever leave home?
- Are there aspects of the trip that make you nervous? Where is there anxiety from the group?
- How can you challenge yourself to grow closer to God and the Church through this experience?