SALT LAKE CITY — Priests from throughout the Diocese of Salt Lake City gathered May 9 at St. Vincent de Paul Parish’s Benvegnu Center for a day of fellowship and learning.
The topic for the day was diversity, which reflected one of the goals of the diocesan Pastoral Plan. The plan was released last year and has five goals: faith formation, vocations, stewardship, Eucharist and Catholic identity: unity in diversity, and the dignity of the human person.
Presenters at the convocation were Ruth Dillon, director of the diocesan Office of Worship, and Karin Hurley, director of the Office of Stewardship & Development.
The Catholic Church in the United States has seen a significant demographic shift in the past few decades, and “It recognizes that diversity is something that is integral to the Church’s very identity and mission,” Dillon said.
People of European ancestry comprise the majority of those involved in Church ministry, but that is changing. Sizable numbers of Catholics from all cultural backgrounds are in leadership roles not only in their own groups but among diverse communities, Dillon said, citing research by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
According to the USCCB’s “Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers,” “One cannot adequately preach, teach or form persons in the Catholic faith without attending to the ways in which Catholic faith and identity become embodied in culture.”
In the local diocese, statistics aren’t needed to prove the truth of this research, Dillon said. “We know this from the parishes that we’re working in and the people that we serve, and it’s being written out on a regular, daily basis.”
Parishes in Utah are moving toward a “shared” model, in which more than one language, racial or cultural group seeks to celebrate the Eucharist and embody Christian community in the same buildings, Dillon said, quoting the Pastoral Plan.
“For ministers and pastoral workers to be effective in this diverse environment, the right knowledge, attitude and skills need to be developed,” the plan states.
The survey that was taken as part of the Pastoral Plan process noted that the barriers parishioners see to practicing their faith, include lack of spiritual guidance, faith formation and parish services, Dillon said.
The workshops offered by Dillon and Hurley addressed ways to understand culture; diversity, inclusion, and the universal Church; and how and why parish culture matters.
The theology of intercultural ministry isn’t new, Dillon said. In the 4th century, St. Ambrose advised St. Augustine to live in the Roman style if he was in Rome, and if he lived elsewhere to live as they did. “Whatever church you come to, if there is a custom of the place, neither give offense to others nor take offense from them,” he said.
Dillon said this is good advice. “I really think this approach begins the dialog that helps us understand there is no one true – and I’m speaking culturally – way that we celebrate the liturgy.”
Diversity comes in many forms, not just cultural but also age, gender, socioeconomic and other factors. Hurley discussed the difference between tolerance and appreciation of others, and how policies and practices have different impacts on different groups.
During the convocation, the priests were asked to talk among themselves at their tables about different types of diversity, to identify times that they felt excluded, and to identify practices of inclusion. Some of the priests then shared with the entire group what had been discussed at their tables.