This section addresses ways of celebrating multiculturalism in different environments. We are experiencing this unique social and religious phenomenon as a Church and as a people in Canada.
In the following segments, we would like to show how we could celebrate this reality in our parishes and schools, and deepen our awe in the splendour and richness of diversity that we have in Canada. Cultures and faiths that have for centuries been so distant from each other, now strive for harmony and co-operation in Canadian urban communities coast to coast.
- Celebrating Multiculturalism at Scarboro Missions
- Celebrating Multiculturalism in a Catholic Parish
- Celebrating Multiculturalism in a Catholic School
Celebrating Multiculturalism at Scarboro Missions
During Lent 2003, multiculturalism was celebrated at Scarboro Mission Headquarters as a long overdue outreach to and affirmation of the many recently-arrived multicultural or ethnic Catholic communities in Canada in the last thirty years.
Starting with Ash Wednesday, Scarboro Missions welcomed each of the following cultures to come to the St. Francis Xavier Chapel to celebrate Eucharist in their language and with songs and symbols that captured their story and the unique cultural expressions of their faith in Jesus Christ. The following members of their local Catholic communities came in both smaller sized groups of 30 to 50 to overflowing numbers of over 100:
With all the groups gathered, we prayed for peace globally, peace in their countries of origin, peace in their communities here in Canada and peace in their own families. As a Canadian missionary community made up of priest and lay members who have witnessed to Christ in a variety of ways overseas and in Canada, Scarboro Missions named and recognized how these newly arrived Catholic cultures are in mission to Canada and bring renewed energy, vitality and Christian values in family and business and social life to the Church in Canada as well. We said we wanted to affirm and support their missionary charism to the Canadian reality and hoped these gatherings would be just a beginning.
What we did in Lent could be done in most parish communities in major cities and urban centres across Canada from Vancouver in the west to Halifax in the east. Even more so, it could be celebrated in a hundred different ways in classrooms and in auditoriums in every elementary and Catholic High School from coast-to-coast. To do so would enhance our own understanding of the word “catholic”.
To look at the city of Toronto is to glimpse in smaller numbers at the reality in other cities, and the cosmopolitan nature of our schools and our parishes and how this needs to be named, understood and celebrated.
According to Census 2001 of Statistics Canada, 59% of Greater Toronto Area list English as their mother tongue. However, the following breakdown of some of the other languages spoken illustrates the tremendous diversity of population backgrounds in this city and its reflection in other cities across Canada: Chinese 7.59%, Italian 4.41%, Portuguese 2.42%, Punjabi 2.13%, Filipino 1.89%, Spanish 1.75%, Tamil .64%, Urdu 1.23%, Arabic 1.07%, Persian 1.00%, Korean 0.79%, Gujarati 0.78% and Hindi 0.48%, amongst many other languages.
It is important to note that the Caribbean nations with such diverse histories and cultures are generally listed as English speaking but they also are a clearly significant grouping in many parishes and school populations.
One would not think that Punjabi, Tamil, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Gujarati or Hindi would have that much interest for us as the numbers of Christians or Catholics in those populations are small. However, it is an interesting phenomenon to note that these very religious Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Zoroastrian people choose often to send their children to Catholic schools where they can be educated in a Faith atmosphere and where in Ontario specifically, in the Grade XI curriculum the study of world religions is a requirement.