US parishes welcome more cultural groups, conference urges more inclusion

.- Multicultural parishes are becoming increasingly common across America, and they are no longer just an urban phenomenon. Parishes in rural towns are becoming more and more multicultural, and this new trend was evident last week at a national conference in Arlington

"It’s now very hard to find any part of the country without multiculturalism in their midst," Fr. Robert Schreiter, theology professor at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, told the Arlington Herald.

Ten bishops, 45 diocesan directors of multicultural ministry, and others ministering to cultural communities in their dioceses gathered Sept. 7-9 for the Convening of the Office for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees Networks.

The three-day conference, held at the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington, included small group discussions and workshops.

While there is an increasing number of Hispanics across the country, there are also many other people who come from Africa and Asia.

Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino, California, observed that many people today are fearful about other cultures. While addressing the crowd, the chairman of the USCCB committee on migration urged people to reach out and get to know people of other cultures.

He also warned against reducing members of ethnic groups to their cultural expressions. There is much more to ethnic community groups than their food, music, dance and traditional costume.

Members of the dominant culture must invite them to the fullness of the local church, and include them in more than feast day processions or international festivals, the bishop said. They must be included in all aspects of parish life, such as adult faith formation, religious education and stewardship, he said.

The bishop also reflected on the unity and universality expressed in the word “catholic.”

“Society is trying to divide us as it is, but we are Catholic,” he was quoted as saying. He suggested forming alliances between dioceses to support each other and share resources.

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