The multicultural movement in the Catholic Church today is colorful, vibrant and fast moving. In these multicultural parishes, the pews are filling 1 -30 minutes before Mass begins and latecomers are left with standing room only accommodations. Some Catholics experience “pew shock” when they discover that the pew their family has been sitting in for years now has a new family in it. In many of these multicultural parishes, Sunday Mass is vibrant, with a cultural mix of liturgical music and soulful homilies that move the congregation into giving the priest and choir a round of applause. In these parishes, Mass is a “can’t wait to get there experience” for many of its members. One can easily see the excitement on the faces of these happy “church goers” and hear about it too. These “church goers” are not shy about sharing the “Good News.” Even though there are a lot of happy people in these parishes, not everyone is excited about the influx of newcomers from different ethnic groups. These are usually individuals who have been members of the parish for a long time and are experts at playing out characters from the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Dr. Spencer Johnson. As in the book, they will deal with change by leaving, staying and accepting change, or staying and never accepting. Although they may at times appear angry, often times they are not angry; they simply want answers to a few questions. The three most common questions are: Where are all these people coming from? Why are they coming here? And how can we stop them from taking over our church? Here are some simple answers to these questions…the majority of newcomers to the Church today are immigrants who come to Catholic parishes in the United States because they are Catholic. They come to the United States for the same reason as many of our ancestors arrived on our shores. (This excludes Native and African Americans. Ancestors of Native Americans were already here and African American ancestors did not freely come on their own.) Reasons for wanting to come to this country include the desire to live in freedom, to practice their religion, to escape poverty or oppression, and to make better lives for themselves and their children. The various ethnic groups we see in the Church today consist of Asian /Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Europeans, Africans, African Americans and Native Americans. Whenever there is a significant influx of people to a particular parish one thing is for sure, this is a welcoming parish. People go where they feel welcomed. As far as newcomers taking over the Church, rest assured that this will never happen; God will always be in charge. Welcoming and celebrating the gifts of all our brothers and sisters in Christ are the best things to do when the multicultural movement hits your Church, and it will someday. Create unity by celebrating the richness of diversity in the Church. It truly is better together!
Written by: Kathleen Merritt