Hello and welcome back!
I hope everyone had an enjoyable and safe Fourth of July. I think it was particularly nice that the holiday fell on a Monday this year, which provided folks with a long holiday weekend and, hopefully, more time to spend with family and loved ones.
As I normally do this time of year, I have asked invited guest writers to share their experiences with you. This week, I’ve have asked Father Michael Harrington to tell us about his important work in our Office of Outreach and Cultural Diversity and, next week, Father Carlos Suarez will offer his reflections as a newly ordained priest.
– Cardinal Seán
– – –
Hello my name is Fr. Michael Harrington. I am a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and Director of the Office of Outreach and Cultural Diversity. His eminence, Cardinal Sean, has asked me to share a little about the work and activity we are involved in from this office. Since I read the Cardinal’s blog every week, it is a special honor and a blessing to share this information with you over the Net.
The Mission of the Office of Outreach and Cultural Diversity is to help and support the diocesan offices, parishes and ethnic communities so that every person’s dignity is respected, the immigrant is welcomed as a brother or sister, and all humanity under God forms a united family which knows how to appreciate with discernment the different cultures which comprise it.
We endeavor to model and promote under the leadership of Cardinal Sean a collaborative ministry with the multi-cultural communities of the Archdiocese as an effective vehicle for carrying out the mission of the Catholic Church. We seek to welcome, serve and integrate the different cultural and ethnic communities into the full life of the Archdiocese.
The Office is comprised of many components. We have twenty-seven ethnic apostolates within the Archdiocese including Brazilians, Vietnamese, Haitians, Ugandans, Kenyans, Chinese, Cape Verdeans, Polish, Koreans, and Filipinos, to name just a few. Under the umbrella of Cultural Diversity, we also have an Office for Black Catholics directed by Lorna Desroses, an Office of the Deaf Apostolate directed by Fr. Jeremy St. Martin and Fr. Shawn Carey and an Office for Persons with Disabilities directed by Karen Murray. Let me note that here in the Archdiocese we have the largest population the world over of Brazilians outside of Brazil and the largest population of Ugandans outside of Uganda.
We work to provide priests and lay leaders to meet the pastoral and sacramental needs of our communities which you can imagine is not always easy as Mass is celebrated in over twenty languages each week in the Archdiocese. All together, we are blessed to have an active and vibrant multi-cultural ministry within the Archdiocese. Furthermore, we are blessed to have the leadership and support of Cardinal Sean who has a great love for all of these communities. I have been in this office for only a year and I cannot count the number of times where people have approached me and asked me to thank the Cardinal for his pastoral care.
As I began my work in this office, I wanted to go out and attend as many events in the communities that I could. I wanted to see firsthand the life and diversity of the communities of the Archdiocese. I began to visit two or three communities every weekend including many of their feast days, pilgrimages and anniversaries.
Each week I was blown away by the energy, exuberance and vitality. I was drawn ever more into the love of our Universal Church.
Chinese Community on Easter Sunday
Cape Verdean Marian Procession
African American MLK Celebration
Brazilian Community Pilgrimage
Vietnamese Community First Communion
One of the most surprising aspects of my work with the various communities was to see not only the number of youth involved in their apostolate but to experience how well organized they were for mission. For instance, I attended the Open House for the Korean Young Adult Group called Unitas and was elated to see over 100 young adults show up.
Korean Young Adult Group Unitas
Many of our Ethnic communities have active youth and young adult groups that have prayer groups, drama troupes, dance and song ensembles and much more.
Brazilian Young Adult Group from St. Tarcisius in Framingham
One of the goals of this past year was to call more young people into leadership from these communities. We formed the Cultural Diversity Young Adult Council. The council has met monthly over the past six months and everyone has been deeply enriched by these meetings.
Young Adult Council Meeting
Young Adult Council Retreat
The Fruit of these meetings has not only been the sharing of ideas and best practices from their communities but also a multi-cultural young adult retreat for the leaders and a Catholic Family Festival which had over 1400 people in attendance and united people from over thirty countries.
Family Festival – Polish Choir
Family Festival – Cape Verdean Community
Family Festival – Nigerian Choir
Family Festival – Mass with Cardinal Sean
I have shared with you above a few of the new and exciting things that have happened in the Office of Outreach and Cultural Diversity during the past year. The space provided here would not even begin to tell you how enriched I have become over this time. However, there is so much more work that needs to be done if we are truly to become the welcoming community that God has called us to be. A few of our parishes are still in need of pastoral resources that would allow them to flourish. Meeting these needs well takes time and is often quite complex. In addition, we have to strive to break down any fears that would stagnate our ethnic communities. The USCCB stated some of these concerns in its document Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Our Diversity when it said,
Competition for resources and recognition among the ethnic groups of the parish often centers on specifics such as Mass times, the use of facilities, and the attention of priests; but such conflicts can reflect vague fears that one group will somehow displace a long-established one. Established parishioners, used to thinking of their parish practices and religious traditions as the norm, may cling to their control over the parish council or "prime" Sunday Mass times. They may find themselves increasingly a minority and may react with fear to protect the parish where they were raised and where they saw their children baptized and educated in the faith. African American Catholics, who have their own history of having been excluded and discriminated against in the larger Church, as in society in general, now face newcomers in many of their parishes, newcomers who threaten their hold on the few institutions where they have come to feel at home. In some cases, multiple immigrant groups compete with one another within a single parish. In other cases, immigrant clergy struggle with their bishop or pastor for control over the finances of an immigrant group or for final authority over the congregation. While such competition can be destructive of community life, the issues involved are often real, and they require wisdom, much charity, and careful mediation to reach solutions that respect the legitimate concerns of all sides.
With this in mind, one of our goals for this fall and the new year is to develop an Enculturation program for priests from foreign countries to become acclimated here in the United States to American rectory living and pastoral practices in the parish. In addition, we are putting together workshops that would help pastors, parochial vicars , deacons and the lay faithful who are welcoming an immigrant community into their midst to understand the needs of the community and that they need not fear change.
I am most grateful to Cardinal Sean for the opportunity to share with you just a few of the things happening in the Office of Outreach and Cultural Diversity.
May God Bless you!