After a week full of weather-related travel delays, the participants of this year’s Mid-Atlantic Congress were thrilled to arrive in Baltimore. The event opened on the afternoon of March 7, 2013 with a lively introduction and prayer service which set the perfect tone for the days to follow. One interesting feature at this year’s Mid-Atlantic Congress was the use of a responsive texting system designed to bring the Congress attendees directly into the conversation at the event. Additionally, Congress participants were actively tweeting leading up to and throughout the conference using #MACongress. The opening prayer featured inspirational video messages from Cardinal Wuerl and Cardinal Dolan, who were unable to attend due to their participation in the Papal Conclave
The first session I attended at this year’s Mid-Atlantic Congress was entitled “Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers“. The session was presented by a staffer from the Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Here’s the basic description of this seminar:
In 2007 the USCCB established several priorities for action. One of those priorities was ”recogniton of cultural diversity.” In highlighting this priority the bishops were not only pointing to the profound demographic transformation that has been taking place in the United States and in the Church over several decades, they were also manifesting the Catholic Church’s concern with diversity not just as a practical matter but as something integral to the Church’s very identity and mission. This workshop is directed to all those engaged in some form of ecclesial ministry including bishops, priests, deacons, religious men and women and lay ecclesial ministers, and other pastoral agents. It brings participants to an introductory level of familiarity with intercultural relations for ministry, providing both theological and spiritual foundations.
This particular session provided a conversational forum for discussion on the amazing diversity present in today’s Church in the United States. The attendees were a largely diverse group of clergy and diocesan leaders. One highlight for me was our group being led in the signing of the opening prayer by a hearing-impaired priest who was in attendance. My own home diocese is amazingly diverse and the ability to pray and worship with those of varying cultures has been a tremendous blessing in my own life. It was heartening to learn in this session about the depth with which the Secretariat and the Church as a whole are engaging in true community building which embraces cultural diversity. Intercultural Competence helps us to work more effectively with one another in the Body of Christ and gives leaders the tools needed to empower all cultures to have a voice in our Church.
A question for you: How diverse is your home diocese and do specific programs exist to support and promote cultural diversity?