Celebrating Multiculturalism in a Catholic Parish

In this segment, we are making suggestions for parish life. Then in September, we will assist our teacher and chaplain friends with applications of our Scarboro Missions’ experience of cultures in their classroom and entire school celebrations.

Parishes in Urban and Rural Canadian Settings:

We are suggesting two ways: a one-time event (Option A) or a series of events (Option B).

One-time Event (Option A): Even in rural parishes where the ethnic make-up may be of 3rd and 4th generation European or British Isles ancestry, there is a way of celebrating the mystery and the beauty of diverse cultures in our Canadian Catholic Church and in your particular parish family. The Offertory procession can include with the bread and wine and water, the symbol of each of the cultures making up the parish community. A reader or lector would name each of the cultures and the meaning of the symbol. A small flag on a stand can be used to represent the country/culture, which can be placed on a table before the altar for all to see.

It would help if the homily that day also focuses on the richness of cultural traditions in the CATHOLIC and UNIVERSAL Church. It can conclude with a sincere welcome of the most recent cultural groups to arrive in the parish, and the history and qualities that that culture offers the Church and Canada. Summer time is a good time to try this focus and end with a Multicultural Smorgasborg of foods from each tradition. A card and explanation of each food’s origin and meaning would make the entire event a Fiesta of Catholic Cultures.

Series of Events (Option B): A more intensive program we have used in a parish in Scarboro over a 5-year period focused on one culture every 3 months. It met with great success and added greatly to the joyfulness, hospitality and sensitivity of all the parish members. They learned more about their own cultures but also about the cultures and traditions of others next to them in the pew.

The following are suggestions from what we experienced and animated:

  • Step 1: Have a parish meeting of representatives of all the cultural groups. Determine which cultures wish to have their nation, history and qualities presented as the focus of an event. Make it known to all in the parish that this will be a project of a number of years to build awareness and appreciation of one another and of all God’s children of Faith traditions even beyond Christianity.
  • Step 2: Each event day – a Sunday in our case – is broken up into the following sub-steps (a) preparing the Environment, (b) the Liturgy and (c) the Fiesta.
    • 2(a) Preparing the Environment:
      • Displays are created giving the map and country location; national history, history of Christianity in that country, numbers of emigration to Canada; artifacts and symbols all put on display in the Church and hall to be seen before and after Mass.
      • The altar, the sanctuary and entrance to the church are enhanced with national colours of the country and culture.
    • 2(b) The Liturgy
      • Greeters to the Saturday/Sunday Masses are of that cultural group.
      • A program is prepared that can be handed out with a short history and also the translations of songs or hymns that may be used in the Mass.
      • The gifts brought up at the offertory by families could be named in the program and their purpose and meaning explained; this could also be read by the lector.
      • The homily that day should highlight how that culture has lived the Gospel or expressed it in music, art and other creativity.
      • Eucharistic ministers and lectors could be chosen from that cultural group.
      • The Our Father could be prayed or sung in that language on this special occasion.
    • 2(c) The Fiesta
      • The worshipping parishioners on the Saturday/Sunday Eucharistic liturgies are invited back to the parish after the final Mass when different foods from that culture are offered at tables as in a buffet and where people are encouraged to view the displays of clothing, artifacts or see videos or hear talks in separate rooms of the history of this people.
      • A Fiesta tone is kept throughout the afternoon with music, live or taped, played in the setting where the majority of people have gathered. Presentations of cultural dance and a few songs with translations or interpretations could be offered.
      • The members of the parish from that cultural grouping need to be purposefully engaged in greeting friends and strangers and engaging as well in conversation with people about their history, reasons for coming to Canada and their contributions presently and historically to the global Catholic Church and to the Parish.
      • The parish priest and members of the parish Council or Liturgical Committee need to speak, welcoming all and congratulating the members of the particular culture for their labours in putting on the event.

We found with proper preparation, planning and ample announcements weeks ahead of these Cultural Focus Days, people looked forward to the awareness raising. Moreover, relationships grew among the parish community and more of that group participated in parish events.

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