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Bishops Announce Guidelines for Intercultural Competence in Ministry

 
November 14, 2011
New Evangelization, unity in diversity common thread of guidelines
Connecting Catholic identity with cultural diversity key to re-proposing the faith

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Cultural Diversity presented its guidelines on intercultural competence for ecclesial ministers at a special evening session to more than 40 bishops, staff and guests on Sunday, November 13, 2011, ahead of the bishops’ General Meeting in Baltimore

The project took shape over the past three years in response to the bishops’ pastoral priority on recognition of the cultural diversity in the church.

“Diversity in the Church is happening” said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, chairman of the Cultural Diversity Committee. “The skills from the Cultural Competency Workshop will assist pastoral ministers to make it happen more effectively in their communities.”

The guidelines are expressed in the form of competencies – knowledge, attitudes and skills – and are developed in a training workshop consisting of five learning modules, one for each guideline.

The five guidelines are: 1) Frame issues of diversity theologically in terms of the Church’s identity and mission to evangelize; 2) Seek an understanding of culture and how it works; 3) Develop intercultural communications skills in pastoral settings; 4) Expand one’s knowledge of the obstacles that impede effective intercultural relations; and 5) Foster ecclesial integration /inclusion in Church settings, with a spirituality if reconciliation and mission.

The guidelines are explicitly linked to the universal Church’s focus on the New Evangelization and are expressed in the form of competencies that enhance one’s ability to effectively engage cultures as well as deal with cultural boundaries and relations.

Over the past year the program was piloted at three different locations for a select group of leaders in the (arch) dioceses of Washington, Baltimore, Wilmington, Arlington, Des Moines and San Bernardino.

At the Sunday gathering, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, and Auxiliary Bishop Rutilio del Riego of San Bernardino, California, gave enthusiastic endorsements of the program.

“The workshop introduced staff to the reality of diversity” Bishop Pates said.“Our goal is to institutionalize this reality so we do not need these special occasions for the recognition of diversity”.

Bishop del Riego spoke to the process of preparation, participation and follow up the Diocese of San Bernardino went through.Double the number of participants, from clergy to diocesan personnel, than originally planned responded to the diocesan bishops invitation to attend.

“The participants gave high marks to the contents and the presenters but, most of all, provided them with valuable ideas they could use immediately,” Bishop del Riego said.

Workshop materials include an introductory DVD, a manual with content and methodology, a listing of best practices, a glossary of terms and other resources.Directors of several USCCB departments concerned with evangelization and catechesis, Catholic education, laity formation, and youth and young adult ministries, as well as representatives of national Catholic organizations like the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) attended.Others, such as the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministers (NFCYM) and the National Associations of Lay Ministers (NALM), have expressed a keen interest in intercultural competencies for ministers and the need to provide this kind of training for all Church personnel, teachers and pastoral agents in an increasingly diverse Church.

One of the main features of the guidelines is their insistence on connecting Catholic identity with cultural diversity.One of the participants in the San Bernardino pilot session, reflecting on the connection between intercultural competence and the New Evangelization, wrote: “The workshop is calling us Catholics to be more intentional about our Catholicism, to “re-propose” our faith in and for our U.S. culture.”

The Secretariat of Cultural Diversity will now disseminate the guidelines and has identified several outcomes. One of the most important outcomes will be the creation of a core of workshop trainers available for service in the various Episcopal regions. They will be available to train diocesan and parish personnel/ministers in the five competencies. Training of trainers sessions will begin in the summer of 2012.

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Keywords: diversity , culture, New Evangelization, Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, intercultural competencies, Bishop Jaime Soto, Bishop Richard Pates, Bishop Rutilio del Riego, Fall General Assembly, USCCB, United States Conference of Catholic Bishop

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