November 28, 2014

‘Richness of diversity’: Intercultural Ministry dinner recognizes ‘there are no aliens in the family of God’

As part of the entertainment at the Intercultural Ministry Awards Dinner on Nov. 15 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis, Filipino children perform a traditional Philippine “tinikling” dance, in which they step, hop and jump over and between moving bamboo sticks. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

As part of the entertainment at the Intercultural Ministry Awards Dinner on Nov. 15 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis, Filipino children perform a traditional Philippine “tinikling” dance, in which they step, hop and jump over and between moving bamboo sticks. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

For one evening, the world seemed to come together in a symphony of color, costume, music and dance, united by faith and a celebration of culture.

Catholics from various cultural backgrounds across central and southern Indiana—Latinos, Africans, Vietnamese, Americans, Koreans, French, Filipinos, African-Americans, Burmese—together made manifest the diversity of a faith whose very name means “universal.”

The inaugural archdiocesan Intercultural Ministry Awards Dinner was held on Nov. 15 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. (Related: See a photo gallery from this event)

“It’s like looking at the rainbow of the archdiocese, so many beautiful colors, traditions, histories, but lit with the light of Christ,” said Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin before saying the opening prayer.

Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez, director of the archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry, described the three-fold purpose of the event.

“We want to show how diverse the archdiocese is, to celebrate that,” he said of the first reason.

“Second, we want to celebrate the ministry that our three honorees have been doing for years and years serving the people from the different cultures. They are for us an example to follow.”

The evening had a third component of raising money to assist in the works of the Office of Intercultural Ministry, Brother Moises explained. He said that funds raised will be used “to minister to the many cultural groups in formation [through the office’s Intercultural Pastoral Formation Institute], to help lay ministers develop skills, and [for] events to appreciate each other in our diversity.”

Before the awards ceremony, the 400 attendees savored foods from around the world—all homemade by various ethnic groups.

As with the food, the evening’s entertainment took attendees across the globe, featuring traditional African, Filipino and Mexican dances and songs from a 17-year-old Vietnamese soloist, the choir of the Apostolate of French-Speaking Catholics, and the Gospel Choir of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis.

“This is a great thing, to come with what you know of your culture and get together with others who share your values,” said Louis Dotsu, a native of Togo in West Africa and a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg. “You take from them also, so that can enrich [you]. You learn, and you share what you know.”

He sings in the archdiocesan Apostolate of French-Speaking Catholics’ choir, as does Anne Brouwer, a native of France who is also a member of St. Malachy Parish.

“It’s humbling [to share your faith with those from other nations] because you get to meet people from different corners of the world,” said Brouwer. “Even just in the French group, we are so diverse, because there are so many countries that are French-speaking. Getting to sing and pray in my language—I didn’t realize it would mean something to me, but it does.”

As director of religious education at culturally diverse St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, Mary Jo Thomas-Day is appreciative of the archdiocese’s Office of Intercultural Ministry.

“Being at St. Monica’s, being part of an intercultural community, I really support this evening,” she said. “I really believe in multiculturalism, that we’re all one in Christ. No matter what our cultural background, we all belong to the family of God.”

For Claudette Young, a member of St. Rita Parish in Indianapolis, the evening made her feel “filled with joy. This is a wonderful thing for my heart.”

Young was in attendance to see her pastor Father Kenneth Taylor, who is also pastor of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis, receive one of the evening’s three Intercultural Ministry Awards. The award recognizes individuals for their contributions and service to Catholics of various cultural backgrounds.

Father Taylor was the first leader of what was then called the archdiocesan Office of Multicultural Ministry. When the ministry started in 1996, Father Taylor was the only staff member, and even that position was only part time.

“It’s an extra good sign from Archbishop Tobin that he was committed to focusing on highlighting the diversity of the archdiocese, that he took the office, which for so many years was an office of one person part time, and made an office of four full-time people,” Father Taylor said in his acceptance speech. He resigned from the leadership position last year after being elected as president of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.

Providence Sister Marikay Duffy received the Intercultural Ministry Award for her 38 years of service to the Hispanic community in the archdiocese.

“Was it challenging?” she asked in her address after receiving the award. “Yes. But did I love it? Yes, yes and yes. … I learned to deepen my own faith, and trust in the providence of God as I worked alongside people who were doing the same, day after day.”

Father Michael O’Mara, pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis, also received an award for his dedicated service to the Hispanic community.

“I go back to my days as pastor at St. Philip Neri [Parish in Indianapolis],” he said in his address. “On a railroad truss [not far from the parish], there is a saying by Mahatma Ghandi. It says, ‘The little that you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it.’ I think that saying has had such an impact on me through all of my ministry.”

Archbishop Tobin delivered the keynote address for the evening. He noted that, having visited 71 countries in his past leadership roles for the Redemptorist religious order and speaking five languages, he has come to appreciate the “richness of diversity.”

The archbishop quoted from the apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” in which, said Archbishop Tobin, “Pope Francis wrote that ‘cultural diversity is not a threat to Church unity.’ He said that ‘unity … is never uniformity but a multifaceted and inviting harmony.’

“Pope Francis is calling for diversity because, again in his words, ‘The faith cannot be constricted to the limits of understanding and expression of any one culture.’ We are not all the same, and what a sad thing it would be if we were.”

Archbishop Tobin went on to identify three gifts that come from embracing cultural diversity.

“First, and most importantly, it allows the Church in central and southern Indiana to continue the double miracle of Pentecost,” he said. Not only did Pentecost provide the miracle of each person hearing the Good News in his own language, the archbishop explained, but also the miracle of the Holy Spirit creating unity.

The second gift of embracing different cultures that the archbishop identified is “the blessedness of the poor in spirit. … As Paul says throughout the second letter to the Corinthians, God chooses the weak and the poor and makes them strong, so it’s clear that it is his power that gets the job done.”

Lastly, he said, “In embracing cultural diversity and its unity, we can move from platitudes, paternalism and patronizing to a grateful appreciation of the gifts of other people. We can truly become a ‘catholic’ Church.”

Archbishop Tobin noted that “when we love our neighbor, we discover the face of God, and we experience the power of God’s love in us.

“No one should ever be called an alien—there are no aliens—in the family of God.”
 

(For more information on the archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry, log on to www.archindy.org/multicultural.)

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