From uneven responses to the COVID-19 crisis to the raw racial tensions exhibited by the death of George Floyd in 2020, Americans over the past year have become more aware of the country’s diverse population and struggles than different cultures. live a day-to-day basis.
This goal has also become a priority in the Catholic Church nationwide, and a program initiated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church focuses on a way to promote voices and understand the needs of the diverse group of young adults who are the future of the Church in the United States.
Called Journeying Together, the program aims to bring together young adults from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds to discuss their experiences in the American Church and initiate a strategy on how to make their voices heard as the Church moves forward.
Walking together, according to the organizers, is the response of the USCCB to the 2018 Synod of Bishops on Youth and the 2019 Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis âChristus Vivitâ (âChrist Livesâ), his reflections on the synod. The document emphasized the importance of listening to and involving young people around the world.
The main goal of the USCCB program is to help find ways to make the voices of young Catholic adults from all cultural backgrounds heard.
âWe started this because of the Pope’s message on transmitting the Gospel to all young people,â said Mar MuÃ±oz-Visoso, executive director of the Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church of the USCCB.
“There has been an awareness for some time that youth and young adult ministry does not always serve or reach all young people in all cultural groups,” she told Catholic News Service. âWe know that young people from all cultural groups feel that their dioceses or parishes are not contacting them, and therefore the church is increasingly becoming a part of their life.
The initiative launched on July 25, 2020, with what was originally supposed to be an in-person conference. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented this, so organizers moved quickly to ensure important conversations could still take place.
Engagement became a priority, especially with the heated discussions about racism and diversity unfolding across the country amid nationwide protests over Floyd’s death and other incidents.
“The Cultural Diversity Committee said we don’t want to delay this conversation – we have to do it now with everything that’s going on – the pandemic, the reckoning with racial justice – so we’ve gone virtual,” said MuÃ±oz-Visoso.
“This gathering that we were going to do in a single weekend spread to a series of online meetings that gave each community the chance to talk to each other and introduce themselves to others, to present their joys, their sorrows. , their needs and their hopes, âshe said. noted.
In a way, the COVID-19 restrictions have proven to be a blessing for the Journeying Together process because what started as a weekend get-together has turned into a year-long conversation fueled by the platform. -Zoom meeting form that has become so vital during the pandemic.
Participants first met in monthly intracultural groups, which gave young adults from the same communities the opportunity to share their experiences, frustrations and challenges of combining their cultural experiences with their faith. These were followed by monthly intercultural exchanges which gave members of all communities the opportunity to learn about each other’s cultures and faith experiences.
The meetings brought together young adults and ministry officials from all of the country’s major cultural families: African Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, European Americans, Hispanics / Latinos, Native Americans, and a group of migrants, refugees and communities in movement, including agricultural workers, those who work with carnivals and circuses, maritime workers and Irish travelers.
By including American Europeans and migrant communities, Journeying Together went beyond many recent diversity programs, as it gave these two groups a chance to discuss their unique cultures and reflect on what they are. mean for the fabric of the church.
Each of the online meetings was led by a panel that presented the main issues, and then the meeting participants broke into small groups where participants from across the country could discuss their experiences in a smaller, more comfortable setting.
Young adults jumped at the chance to speak both with members of their own cultural community and with others – each Zoom session attracted over 200 participants.
Young adults were also heard by church leaders. More than 35 bishops from across the country joined the meetings, offering their perspectives on issues of diversity and inclusion and listening to first-hand testimonies about the experiences of young adults as Catholics in the United States.
Participating bishops included Archbishop Nelson J. PÃ©rez of Philadelphia, chair of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, who attended more than 10 of the dialogues.
Other attendees included Auxiliary Bishop Fernand J. Cheri of New Orleans, a member of the USCCB’s Subcommittee on Migrant, Refugee and Traveler Pastoral Care, and Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup. , New Mexico, Chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on Native American Affairs.
âMost of the young adults who participated do not have much access to a bishop to sit and talk with them, and for many it was an uplifting experience to have a bishop sitting around this virtual table with them to listen to their stories, âMuÃ±oz-Visoso told CNS.
The monthly online meetings ended at the end of June, and for the next year participants from across the country will come together more to address what has been learned.
Participants will finally be able to meet at a live in-person event scheduled for June 23-26, 2022 in Chicago. At the heart of this event, there will be planning sessions on how to take what has been learned to the next level, namely to work on concrete ways for the church to better engage young people of all cultures across the country.
The results of the Journeying Together process will then be published and offered to dioceses, schools, Catholic organizations and apostolic movements across the country so that they can continue the work at the local level.
Many participants said that this will be the most important fruit of all the months of reflection, prayer and discussion.
âCreating the space for this conversation to happen was such a key step, but my prayer is that it doesn’t just remain another process, conversation or other document that is written,â said Cecilia Marie Flores, a organizer of the Filipino American community with Sacramento ACT in the Diocese of Sacramento, California.
âI pray that what we have learned from each other during this process,â she said, âwill kindle our hearts with the desire to be a church that celebrates and truly embraces diversity as a gift. “