“Walking together” aims to nurture leadership and affirm the diversity of the Church


The Journey Together process has inspired many Catholic ministry leaders and young adults, like Jocelyn George, to initiate fruitful dialogues and build cross-cultural relationships in their parishes and ministries.

About 2,000 people are said to have participated in the process through virtual meetings and intracultural dialogues. About 325 ministry leaders, young adults, and bishops gathered for the closing event, “Alive in Christ: Young, Diverse, and Prophetic Voices Journeying Together,” June 23-26 in Chicago.

George was one of the co-facilitators of a workshop focusing on the practice of accompanying youth and young adults in cross-cultural faith communities. She shared her experience as a Syro-Malabar and Native American Catholic.

“We are moving in the right direction and we are having a lot of important conversations that many of us from certain cultural and ethnic backgrounds often struggle to have,” she told Catholic News Service.

In terms of the questions that resonated the most during his breakout session, many young people who identify as bicultural struggle to understand where they fit into today’s culture, the reality of racism in society and what it means to be a disciple while embracing your culture, George added.

Another common theme was the need to nurture leadership, empower young adults in ministry and not treat them simply as symbols.

“Just as cross-cultural work takes hard work and dedication, so does working across generations. We also need to embark on this journey together,” said Nicholas Stein, director of Bon Secours Young Adults, who led another breakout session.

“Mentoring and advocacy are becoming very important tools for creating pathways for young people to take on leadership roles,” added Stein.

Culturally diverse groups represented throughout the process were: Asians and Pacific Islanders, Blacks and African Americans, European Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, Native Americans and Alaska Natives, Migrants , refugees and travellers.

About 150 dioceses were represented, in addition to national Catholic organizations, colleges and universities, campus ministries and apostolic movements.

Other topics explored during the meeting included historical memory and inclusion, diversity and gifts, the practice of accompaniment and training opportunities.

Sally Stovall, president of the National Association of African Catholics in the United States, spoke of the unique gifts that immigrants and refugees bring to this country, to their communities, and to the universal Church.

“We bring new ideas, we bring our values, our customs and our traditions, and we also expand the existing culture that is already there,” Stovall told CNS. “We need to have a welcoming atmosphere so that everyone feels welcome, regardless of their culture of origin, and to do that you need to develop relationships.”

Jose Matos Auffant, vice president of the National Catholic Hispanic Youth Ministry Network, said some of the challenges shared at the workshop he led were related to not being heard, seen and recognized.

For example, there was the account of a priest who eliminated a Mass in a language other than English without taking into account the immigrant community who had already identified with the parish.

“A lot of hurt centered around the priest and how the pastor is or is not prepared to handle cross-cultural ministry in a parish,” Auffant said.

Tracey Lamont, assistant professor of religious education at Loyola University in New Orleans, who co-hosted a workshop with Auffant and Stovall, says healing spaces are needed and should be encouraged in parishes and dioceses. . Although some have them, there are still many places where listening sessions are discouraged.

“People need to be trained in cross-cultural skills and pastoral care and what it really means to listen without judgment, and know what to do with it, know how to respond, and discern next steps,” Lamont said.

The “Walking Together” process began two years ago, inspired by Pope Francis’ 2019 exhortation on young people, “Christus Vivit”, and the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people.

The initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also sought to initiate encounter, dialogue and accompaniment and to respond in a pastoral way to the hopes and challenges of young people from diverse cultures.

The suggestions and conclusions of the meeting will be compiled and offered as a resource to dioceses, schools, Catholic organizations and apostolic movements.


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