Fr. Allan Figueroa Deck, S.J.
CNS photo/Sang H. Park
A Message from the Executive Director
The Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church serves as the pastoral interface of the bishops with the vast range of cultural, racial and language groups that make up the Catholic Church in the United States. The encounter with cultures and the everyday experience of cultural diversity are key and integral aspects of the past and present of the Catholic Church not only in the United States but worldwide. Effective pastoral ministry depends on the ability to respond to the needs of people in a way that respects their identity and deepest values which are expressed in terms of language and culture.
The Church’s concern regarding cultures is based on its mission to evangelize which means communicating Christ’s message to each and every nation. That process requires giving and receiving: the Church gives from the treasure entrusted to it: the biblical Word of God, Catholic Tradition and the Magisterium. The Church in turn receives the richness of humanity found in each and every culture whereby the Christian message becomes incarnate in the lives not only of individuals but of entire peoples.
The dialogue between faith and culture is ongoing. Today in the United States it is urgent that this dialogue proceed with respect and openness in view of the fact that the United States and the Catholic Church are experiencing a period of intense growth due to immigration. The majority of immigrants coming to this land are Roman Catholic. They bring with them distinctive and valuable forms of culture and Catholic identity that must be respected and built upon as a new U.S. identity is forged. Similarly, the process of globalization furthered by modern communications, economics, technology and travel, is creating a vast worldwide encounter of cultures that challenges the Church in new ways.
In addition to the vast range of immigrant groups such as the growing Asian and Pacific Island communities, there are longstanding, cultural/ethnic communities whose presence coincides with or antedates that of European Americans. Among these are the Native American, African American, and Hispanic/Latino communities who continue to provide rich and distinctive patterns of Catholic identity as well as challenging needs of a social, economic and political nature.
The SCDC is committed to raising the level of recognition in the entire Church regarding the fundamental role of culture and cultural diversity in furthering the Church’s mission to evangelize. For this to happen it is essential that more information as well as cross-cultural experiences be provided to Catholic leaders (bishops, clergy, religious men and women and laity) throughout the nation.
The current shift taking place in the Catholic Church in the United States from one of predominantly European origin to one of Latin American, Asian, Pacific Island and African origin demands a new level of dialogue between and among these emerging new groups as well as with the European American faithful. The SCDC serves as staff to the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church made up of 42 bishops from a rich variety of cultural backgrounds. The bishops are seeking to provide a structure for ongoing dialogue and pastoral planning among these diverse groups. Given the dramatic growth in the Hispanic/Latino community in recent years the bishops wish to give special emphasis to the opportunities and challenges of the Hispanic/Latino presence.
The challenges involved in the constructive interaction of so many diverse cultures and groups are daunting indeed. The SCDC seeks to strengthen regional and nation organizations and other intermediate groups who serve and represent these many communities of faith. In so doing the SCDC seeks to promote more effective pastoral leadership among as many cultural groups as possible.
The SCDC is actively involved in the planning and priority development process recently adopted by the Bishops Conference. This requires that virtually all activities of the USCCB reflect an awareness of the contexts of cultural diversity and therefore of the reality of the Church in the United States as it truly is today. This will enhance the effectiveness of all USCCB programs in serving the needs of bishops, dioceses and the broader Church.
Finally, the SCDC is also providing support for a vast array of refugees and people on the move such as farm laborers and seafarers, circus and carnival workers and travelers. In cooperation with the USCCB’s Migrant Refugee Services (MRS) and the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in Rome support services are provided by the SCDC to groups like these which sometimes lack adequate pastoral resources to meet their needs.
Father Allan Figueroa Deck, S.J., Ph.D., S.T.D.