May 6, 2016

Church’s diversity on display at Intercultural Ministry banquet; three honored for their work

Three individuals were honored for their outstanding service to the archdiocese’s mission of intercultural ministry on April 23 in Indianapolis. Pictured are honoree Franciscan Sister Norma Rocklage, left, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, keynote speaker Annette “Mickey” Lentz, and honorees Guadalupe Pimentel Solano and Marlon Alfonso. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

Three individuals were honored for their outstanding service to the archdiocese’s mission of intercultural ministry on April 23 in Indianapolis. Pictured are honoree Franciscan Sister Norma Rocklage, left, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, keynote speaker Annette “Mickey” Lentz, and honorees Guadalupe Pimentel Solano and Marlon Alfonso. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

By Mike Krokos

The menu included appetizers from Africa, Burma, Vietnam and Mexico. Desserts were served from the Philippines and Mexico. Drinks included beverages from Togo and the Philippines. And soul food from the United States was the main dish.

Though the food was among the featured attractions of the second archdiocesan Intercultural Ministry Awards Banquet on April 23 at the Knights of Columbus McGowan Hall in Indianapolis, the dancing, music and singing from various cultures added to the portrait of the Church’s diversity on display.

(Related: See a photo gallery from the event here)

And at the gathering of approximately 230 people, three Catholics from central and southern Indiana—Franciscan Sister Norma Rocklage, Guadalupe Pimentel Solano and Marlon Alfonso—were honored for their outstanding service to the archdiocese’s mission of intercultural ministry.

The theme of this year’s program, “Caring for God’s Creation,” was taken from Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” which was released last June.

Annette “Mickey” Lentz, archdiocesan chancellor, said recognizing and celebrating the Church’s diversity ties in well with “Caring for God’s Creation.”

“The stewardship of creation is rooted in our God-given dignity. Because each of us is created in God’s image, we all have a primary responsibility to love one another and to protect human life,” Lentz said in her keynote address.

“The message of ‘Laudato Si’ is pretty simple: God is the creator of the world and it belongs to him. But he did give it to us to take care of. So I ask us: Are we proud tenants? Do we practice the stewardship model of what he did intend?”

One of the beautiful aspects of the creation story in the Bible is all the diversity that God created, Lentz said. “We see his beauty and his blessings everywhere: in our languages, in our costumes, in our cultures. It is astounding, and stands out in this natural world.”

Some people ignore or forget that we are only “temporary caretakers,” Lentz continued, and invariably, want more and more for ourselves.

“That’s the kind of thinking that allows us to mistreat and exploit one another,” she said. “That’s the kind of thinking that allows us to turn our backs on the new immigrants who are coming every day to our community, to our home.”

This celebration, she noted, provides an opportunity not only to build up the intercultural ministry efforts in central and southern Indiana, but to build a culture “and an archdiocese that creates respect for everyone and everything while promoting that we are all in this together.

“The more we can embrace this concept, the better we will get at learning from one another and sharing our gifts,” Lentz said. “The more we see God in the face of everyone we meet, the more likely we are to see God in all creation.”

Creating a foundation of compassion

The evening’s three honorees were nominated by parishes, archdiocesan agencies and community groups, and selected for their outreach to others while living out their faith.

Sister Norma, who is the executive director for Education Formation Outreach at Marian University in Indianapolis, received the Community Service Award. The award is presented to someone who demonstrates unselfishness, passion and a strong commitment to the spiritual, social, educational or cultural welfare of multiculturalism in general, noted Deacon Michael Braun, director of the Secretariat of Pastoral Ministries in the archdiocese, which hosted the event.

Sister Norma has extensive experience as an educator, administrator, lecturer, and retreat and spiritual director. Since 1989, she has significantly focused her ministry at Marian on recruiting and retaining Latino students while also celebrating their heritage.

“Sister Norma has embraced diversity and inclusion throughout her life of service as a sister of St. Francis at Marian University,” Deacon Braun said.

In her acceptance speech, Sister Norma accepted the award on behalf of all the members of her order, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Oldenburg.

“Thank you for the honor, but also thank you for the gift of being able to serve so many persons of different cultures,” she said.

Pimentel Solano was awarded the Emerging Leader Award, which is given to a young person who is actively involved in the community and promoting intercultural ministry.

In 1999, she arrived in Indiana from Mexico at the age of 7 with her family. While filling out an application to be a 21st Century Scholar in the eighth grade, she learned she was undocumented.

She lost hope in education, but at the end of high school she learned about the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, also known as the DREAM Act. She began to advocate for it, and continues to be a strong advocate for immigrant rights. She is the founding member of the Indiana Undocumented Youth Alliance, an organization that focuses on empowering and providing resources to undocumented youths.

“[Her] experience as a young undocumented immigrant grew in her a compassion for those with similar experiences,” Deacon Braun said. “She distinguished herself by leading and organizing activities to advocate for immigrants.”

In accepting the award, Pimentel Solano, who is a member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis and a member of its pastoral council, said her work for young people stems from her life experience.

“That is another reason why I do the work that I do,” she said, “because I know that if I don’t. … I don’t want for that trip [that other young people make here] to be in vain.”

Building a community of harmony

Alfonso received the Leadership Intercultural Service Award, which is given to an individual who has a long history of contributing to intercultural ministry.

Born and raised in the Philippines, Alfonso moved with his family to Indiana when he was a teenager in 1971. His passion for advocating awareness of cultural diversity in Indiana has led him to volunteer with different churches and with the archdiocese’s Multi-Cultural (now Intercultural) Ministry Commission since 2008. He worked with Father Kenneth Taylor on the commission, and was the representative of the Filipino Ministry.

“We look for a person who models leadership and service to the community,” Deacon Braun said. “Marlon Alfonso has been involved in the Indianapolis intercultural community in a leadership role for nearly 40 years. His commitment to creating cultural awareness and serving the Filipino community set him apart.” 

Alfonso, also a member of St. Monica Parish, said in his acceptance speech that people’s work in diversity is changing Indiana. He also cited preparations underway for the upcoming 40th annual Indy International Festival in November, which serves as another avenue to help recognize the area’s ever-growing diversity.

“It’s hard work, but the passion is there for the changing landscape of Indiana,” he said.

“I’d like to thank Father K.T. [Kenneth Taylor], and [Franciscan] Brother Moises Gutierrez [former director of the Office of Intercultural Ministry],” Alfonso added.

Dabrice Bartet, who is a member of the archdiocese’s French-Speaking Ministry and served as planning co-chair of the April 23 event, said the Intercultural Ministry gathering provided an opportunity to recognize the growing diversity in the Church in central and southern Indiana.

“I think almost all the communities were represented,” said Bartet, who is a member of St. Monica Parish. “We tried to have that throughout the entire evening—from the food to the entertainment and the speakers.”

Bartet, who was born in France and grew up in Togo, moved to the Indianapolis area more than 30 years ago and helped found the archdiocese’s French-Speaking Ministry. She said she appreciates how she is now able to participate in a liturgy celebrated in her native language.

“It is nice to be able to worship with people you can identify with, speaking your language, and hearing the Gospel in your language,” Bartet said.

Maria Manalang, who is coordinator of the archdiocese’s Philippine Ministry, co-chaired the event with Bartet.

“With the growth of the Filipino community, we are now close to 10,000 strong in numbers, with most centrally located in Indianapolis,” she said. Another strong Filipino community resides in Terre Haute.

According to organizers, the gathering will now be held every two years and continue to provide the local Church the opportunity to celebrate its growing, diverse community.

“Honoring individuals who have provided outstanding service to the mission of intercultural ministry is essential for recognizing the beauty of the diversity present in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis,” Deacon Braun said. “These events allow people from different countries to celebrate their own cultural identity while joining together with others from different backgrounds. The color, vitality, and solidarity present at celebrations like this help to build a community of communion and harmony.” †

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