October 3, 2014

Sister, priests to be recognized at Intercultural Ministry Awards dinner

Children in traditional Vietnamese attire perform a traditional drum dance during the Feb. 2 reception held after the Vietnamese Mass celebrating the Lunar New Year. The archdiocese will host its first Intercultural Awards Dinner on Nov. 15 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. (Criterion file photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Children in traditional Vietnamese attire perform a traditional drum dance during the Feb. 2 reception held after the Vietnamese Mass celebrating the Lunar New Year. The archdiocese will host its first Intercultural Awards Dinner on Nov. 15 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. (Criterion file photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer and Mike Krokos

Providence Sister Marikay Duffy and Fathers Kenneth Taylor and Michael O’Mara are no strangers to building community.

Through their respective ministries, the trio has been doing it across ethnicities and cultures for years.

Because of their longtime commitment to building up the body of Christ, the religious sister and two priests will be recognized during the first Intercultural Awards Dinner at 6 p.m. on Nov. 15. The event, whose theme is “The joy of the Gospel is for all people: No one can be excluded,” is sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry.

(Related: Archbishop Tobin is featured speaker at Intercultural Ministry Awards Dinner)

The event is an opportunity to celebrate the various ethnic and cultural groups in the archdiocese, explained Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez, archdiocesan director of the Office of Intercultural Ministry. They include Hispanic, Vietnamese, African, African-American, Burmese, Filipino, Korean, Indian, and the French-speaking Catholics from countries such as Togo, Senegal, Haiti, Canada and France, among others.

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin will be the keynote speaker for the dinner in Assembly Hall at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center, 1400 N. Meridian St., in Indianapolis.

“Sister Marikay, she was the one, in the very beginning, who helped with Hispanic ministry” in the archdiocese, said Brother Moises. “There are so many people she has helped: Hispanic, African and so many others, with their immigration status here.”

Father Taylor, who led the archdiocesan office of multicultural ministry for 17 years, is another person who has worked hard to show the universality of the Church, Brother Moises said.

And Father O’Mara, who currently serves as pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis, “has been very sensitive to our Hispanic brothers and sisters and their needs, and is very passionate about it,” Brother Moises said.

Here are the award recipients’ stories.

Sister Marikay Duffy. S.P.

Providence Sister Marikay Duffy has ministered to and with Latinos since 1964, when she was assigned to serve as a missionary in Peru in South America for 10 years.

When she returned to Indianapolis in 1975, Sister Marikay said there was no Hispanic ministry presence in the archdiocese.

“I was hired by the pastor of St. Mary’s [Parish in Indianapolis] to begin a Hispanic apostolate,” she said. “So I took the telephone book and went through the entire white pages to find Hispanic surnames.”

After contacting 200-300 people, Sister Marikay made an effort to visit each family.

From that effort was born the archdiocese’s first Hispanic ministry, which consisted of Mass, catechesis classes for children, and small church groups, all in Spanish.

From 1978-86, Sister Marikay served in administration for her community, then moved back to Hispanic ministry at St. Mary Parish.

“We talked about beginning some kind of education process, trying to get people into citizenship classes, then English classes, and providing some kind of summer school for children,” she said. “Out of that, we developed what was known as the Hispanic Education Center.”

The organization eventually obtained non-profit status and made its home at the former Latin School on the grounds of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis.

“We were able to have different kinds of classes—computer classes, English classes, classes for mothers and children,” she said. “We had a big summer school. We had space so we were able to continue developing programs.”

After Sister Marikay’s retirement from that organization in 2003, the Hispanic Education Center was incorporated into a coalition called La Plaza, a goal she had worked toward for several years.

For the past 11 years, Sister Marikay continued to assist Hispanics at St. Mary Parish—translating documents needed for the immigration process, accompanying people to the immigration office as a translator during interviews, and even completing a medical interpreter course at the former Wishard Hospital.

Sister Marikay, who retired this year, reflected on her attraction to helping the Hispanic community.

“I have a gift for language,” she said. “And I resonate with [immigrants] because my own parents were immigrants from Ireland.”

But the greatest draw, she said, is the “Hispanic culture in and of itself, in terms of values and faith. It’s a very faith-filled culture. It doesn’t always result in the practice that we do, but there’s no question that faith guides them in their daily living.”

Sister Marikay said the Intercultural Ministry award is a “gift from out of the blue.

“I can think of other people who have been more dedicated. I highly value this award.”

Father Kenneth Taylor

When Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein approached Father Kenneth Taylor about overseeing a new multicultural office in the archdiocese in 1996, the Church in the United States was going through a transition.

“It was interesting because it was happening at a time when around the country, different dioceses had established separate ethnic offices [but] were putting them together into multicultural ministry offices,” Father Taylor said. “At that time, we did not have an office for Black Catholics like a lot of other dioceses did, but we did have a Hispanic apostolate. Our black Catholic efforts were being done on a volunteer basis.”

Around the country, Father Taylor said, there were some who opposed the development of multicultural ministry offices because they thought it would cause a loss of focus on individual apostolates.

That was not the case here.

“For us, since we did not have separate ethnic offices to begin with, this was a step forward. It was official recognition that felt the diversity in the diocese, and the need to address that diversity,” he said.

For the next 17 years, Father Taylor would lead the archdiocesan multicultural office and see it grow.

“The direction I focused on was to have the diversity in the diocese become more visible, getting the different groups to become more of an active part of the archdiocese and, over time, I think we accomplished a lot in that direction,” said Father Taylor, who is pastor of Holy Angels Parish and St. Rita Parish, both in Indianapolis, and also currently serves as president of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.

“During that time, Hispanic Ministry grew from being centered in two parishes—St. Mary and St. Patrick [both in Indianapolis]—to being spread all over the archdiocese,” Father Taylor said. Currently, more than 20 parishes celebrate Mass in Spanish each week.

The archdiocese has also formed a Vietnamese apostolate and a ministry for African Catholics.

As for highlights during his time leading the office, Father Taylor cited representing the archdiocese at Encuentro 2000, a jubilee event sponsored by the U.S. bishops in Los Angeles which celebrated the cultural and ethnic diversity of the Church, and also the archdiocese hosting the National Black Congress in Indianapolis in 2012.

Like the other honorees, Father Taylor said he was humbled and talked of others more deserving.

“Even before me, we’ve had so many people who gave a lot of time and energy and effort to working for racial harmony and diversity within the archdiocese.

“There are folks that I worked with in my early years who have all gone on, and they didn’t get any recognition for the effort they made. … I hate to see those people not acknowledged for what they did.”

Father Michael O’Mara

Father Michael O’Mara’s interest in Hispanic ministry began as early as his days in the seminary in the 1980s, when he participated in a program at the Mexican American Cultural College in San Antonio, Texas.

“Most formable for me was the opportunity to live with a family in Mexico, and to spend time at the Casa Oscar Romero in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas,” said Father O’Mara in an e-mail interview with The Criterion. “I lived as one of the immigrants who took refuge at the house. I couldn’t believe the immigrant journey of these Central Americans who had fled their countries because of the violence.”

In awe of religious men and women who gave their lives serving in Central America, he said he “felt a call to work with the people that these martyrs had worked with.”

From 1999-2013, Father O’Mara served as pastor of St. Mary Parish in downtown Indianapolis, a parish with a large Hispanic population.

With the assistance of “an international community, Spanish and English speakers working together to form one community,” Father O’Mara helped develop bilingual ministries and activities, and a bilingual pastoral council.

He served as president of the Hispanic Education Center for three years and served from 2002-2010 as Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein’s liaison to the Archdiocese of Guadalajara, Mexico, overseeing an exchange of priests and seminarians between the two archdioceses for cultural, spiritual, language and ministry assistance.

Father O’Mara has also been an advocate for immigration reform. Through the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network (IndyCAN), he traveled to Washington, D.C., in 2013 “to lobby on behalf of our immigrant population. There was a sense of the ‘call of Moises [Moses]’ to go and speak on behalf of God’s people living in oppression.”

Now serving as pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis, Father O’Mara said he “found a Latino community eager to grow in numbers and spiritually.” He is also teaching a class on the New Testament for the archdiocese’s Hispanic Institute for Theological and Pastoral Formation.

Father O’Mara was hesitant to receive the award, feeling so many were more worthy of the honor. He credits the Latino community in Indianapolis with the joy he finds in his service.

“In my years as a minister to the Latino community, I have had the privilege to [celebrate sacraments] and walk with our Latino brothers and sisters in the pain and struggles of life, while being able to celebrate the joy of life with them.

“It is not me who should be recognized, but the Latino community for embracing and loving me.” †

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