The Pastor’s Role in a Multicultural Parish

From Vincentian Encyclopedia

The Pastor’s Role in a Multicultural Parish

Concerns, Issues, and Possible Avenues for Theologizing as a Lead Minister in a “Many-Cultured Parish”

Dan Paul Borlik, C.M. 1996

A Scenario

In St. Hybridis on the south side it is Wednesday evening and a favorite time for parish gatherings. As Father Louis enters the parish school, which is also used for parish meetings in the evening, he knows right away that this will be a busy evening. He will make his rounds to greet each group before arriving a little late to his own meeting. In the 3rd grade classroom he says hello to the Legion of Mary whose membership has decreased recently to some 25 active participants. They are mostly women and a few men, in their 60’s or above, many grandparents and great-grandparents. They represent by and large what remains of a once thriving, Irish and German descent, working class parish community. In the 8th grade classroom, way down the hall, he interrupts the Parish Holy Spirit community gathering to wave at some 25 men and women who regularly gather every other week to sing, pray and share. Clapping their hands as they sing their introductory hymn, they smile and nod at the pastor and continue to give praise to God. Tonight they will have a sharing on two items: Father’s request for better representation on the parish council and their need for new members. Their numbers too are dropping. In the 6th grade classroom is another parish group, the Guadalupanos, whose membership has been growing steadily. “¡Hola!. ¿Cómo están?” asks the pastor, hoping that those introductory pastoral Spanish classes he’s attending at the chancery might be beginning to pay off.

Tonight there are already 30 adults attending, mostly women. In the corner of the classroom are two pre-teen girls taking care of the dozen or so small children who came with their mothers or grandmothers. The meeting had begun, as always, with the recitation of the rosary, then a letanía to Nuestra Señora la Virgen de Guadalupe. After these devotions (which seem too long and perfunctory to Louis) there has been an animated discussion of the upcoming novena and fiesta of the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. They are looking for a Spanish-speaking priest, preferably a Mexican priest, to preach each of those ten evenings and have come up with someone from Guanajuato, the original home of many of the Hispanic families. Their short conversation with Louis is in very simple, labored English and ends with a few asking him to bless their retratos (images of the Virgen Mary) at mass next Sunday and some kissing of his hands (he is uncomfortable with these customs, but tries not to show it). As he turns to leave they resume the meeting, which is always held in Spanish. Finally, in the 7th grade classroom the parish pastoral council (still in its early stages this parish) is gathering. Louis has asked that every parish group send at least one representative to these monthly gatherings, so that “as a parish family we can together make decisions about our shared ministry”. He looks out among the group of a dozen or so; many are unfamiliar faces. Three have been sent from the Guadalupanos but are different than those who came last month. They huddle together, chatting in Spanish. One representative from the Knights of Columbus sits quietly, eyeing his watch, council agenda sheet in hand, pencil in place.

Of the staff there is the pastoral associate, a deacon who also is the budget director (and who does not have good news this evening from the look of him). Also from the staff is the director of the Parish Youth Group. She has arrived with two of the older teenagers. They are here to request that there be two youth groups; one the same as always, and the other a new Hispanic Youth Group for whom the pastor will be expected to find a Spanish speaking director. Louis suspects that the real issue is the youth group’s unwillingness to change their confirmation program for the Hispanic youth who want youth processions and a parish program for quinceaño celebrations among other things. Finally is the music director/organist, a stipended long-time parishioner, who responds to Louis’s hello with a steely grin, surely a mark of Irish determination. He is here to protest the “taking over of the choirloft and church” by the Guadalupanos for ten straight nights in December. Few of those attending know each other yet. This is why Louis will (again) guide the group through personal introductions after the prayer. Actually, a large portion of the council meeting will be taken up with his encouraging others to speak and his listening attentively and respectfully to various points of view, some strongly felt, many seemingly unrelated to the topics. It can be hard work for everyone there and very trying for some of the members. Louis tries to stifle a deep sigh. But resolved for a long, challenging evening, he calls the meeting to order. All stand and recite the parish mission statement:

“We, the diverse parishioners of St. Hybridis, are one family through Baptism. Called to conversion through discipleship with Christ our Savior, and inspired by the spirit of hospitality in our patroness, the abbess Hybridis, we welcome all to worship, work and grow together, united as brothers and sisters in the same Lord Jesus Christ.”

While the above may be a purely imaginative (and hopefully a little humorous) depiction of one busy evening in a changing Catholic urban parish, I submit that it is not conjecture. In the increasingly mobile United States, as well as in many other countries with moving populations and changing social landscapes, there are consequent and often quite distressing changes in human organizations. Certainly for active Christian believers, the parish community is an important instance of such a change.

Perhaps in the experience of still many Catholics today, the church as experienced in the local parish used to be a place of unchanging verities, something to be counted on not to change, where practices and roles were part of the tradition, where Catholics knew where they stood, where a great deal of the activity and discussion was essentially concerned with the living out of the tradition, rather than the explanation of it.

New parishioners were, of course, welcome but expected to quietly adjust and adapt to the parish “way”. New Catholics were received quietly, and expected to embrace the true faith, not question it. The serious study of the faith was left to the priests in the (distant) seminary, or to the theologians in the (even more distant) pontifical university.

With the dramatic increase of mobility in our nation (and worldwide) and with the rapid, efficient flow of every new information and ideas through mass media, all of us have experienced the effects of globalization. Much has changed and continues to change, which may be quite stressful at times for those who remember such simpler times.

The experience of newly arrived Catholics from countries and cultures very different than their adopted home is no less stressful. For many the move to a better job and home has been extremely dislocating and confusing. The very experience of uprooting often makes them aware of and keenly interested in preserving or recovering those traditions they took for granted before. Leadership and effective service to such a parish through any staff positions is very much affected. However to no one more than the lead minister, the pastor. New groups with distinct languages, customs, and origins will have distinct traditions as well.

As unexpected and complex issues (such as religious meaning) surface for the pastor (in addition to the very real issues of diminished numbers of ordained) he begins to experience doubts. While once prepared to lead and serve one community, he now has serious questions about his ability and willingness to pastor so many and such different communities.

Having been a pastor in settings both in the United States and in Guatemala, and presently a student of cross cultural concerns for ministry, I don’t lack motivation in seeking to better understand the reality of a multi-cultural parish and its effects on and challenges to parish leadership, especially those centered around parish or community identity and unity in the context of such diversity. The focus of this paper is the pastor’s role in such a parish. I am aware that it may not speak to all, given its limited perspective of the ordained priest who holds the office of pastor. Still, I hope that much of the discussion is pertinent to any pastoral leader-minister concerned with the relationship between culture and mission in multicultural parish. While there are numerous cultures which could be included and studied on their own, this paper’s scope is limited to reflections on the Hispanic cultural reality in United States parishes. Much of the discussion will reflect experience with Hispanics who speak Spanish, and often only Spanish. However, cultural identity is not limited to fluency in it’s original language, although it will be considerably affected by language change.

As to a methodology, there will be first a description of and critical reflection on a current job description of a pastor as an example of present praxis (theology embedded in pastoral practice), with particular interest in its attention to diversity and to promoting unity in the parish. There I will critically examine the praxis from the pole of experience (my own and others’).

Next, from the pole of culture, I will draw from the inquiries and insights of cross-cultural studies, particularly in the examination of culture itself, tradition as understood in culture and particularly within the wide and varied Tradition of the church, the various elements and requirements for tradition, and possible perspectives and responsibilities of pastoral leaders in their approach to that tradition in culture.

Finally from the pole of the Tradition of the Catholic Church (including sacred scriptures, authoritative teachings, and cumulative wisdom) the role of culture in evangelization and Christian development will be considered. The various viewpoints, insights and questions from these poles will critically converse with each other, demonstrating what can be affirmed, what needs to be challenged or changed, and what may need to be further examined. Finally, I will make some suggestions towards a renewed praxis of the role (as delineated in the new job description) of such a pastor.

Focusing the reflection: A Current Pastoral Leadership Praxis

While the use of a tool of a job description may still seem awkward to some in pastoral work, I have found it quite useful for pastoral planning and evaluation with parish ministers and lay leaders, as one means towards developing mutual accountability in large staffs, and as quite helpful in critical theological reflection on the job-holder’s role, his/her vision, primary duties, and the parish community’s needs expressed (at least implicitly).

Inasmuch as the job description details actual activities as well as beliefs and principles, it can be quite revealing. In the included job description’s job summary(2) the pastor oversees the entire Christian community, enables and empowers the community to be a sign of …the Kingdom of God, and, through his leadership somehow [takes place] the coordination of the various ministries and the linking of the people with their tradition and history, as well as the context for a faith vision of the future [being] provided. One can conclude that this pastor’s leadership is valued as central both to the significant actions as well as to the fundamental mission of the parish.

A reflection on the job elements specifies the responsibilities of a pastor, with the expected listing of prayer and worship leadership (3: A-C) and serving as legal representative (3: K) but is notable for using verbs (3: D-J, L-O) such as “ensuring”, “enabling”, “facilitating”, “providing opportunities”, “promoting”, and “developing commissions and volunteer corps”. It seems clear that this pastor spends a great part of his energy and time with individuals and groups who themselves are involved in decision-making and ministry as well. Supporting this is the qualification of “supervised experience in administration and management”(4) and the offered “access to professional consultants”(5). However, also notable is the absence of reference to any culture or language, although the need for speaking Spanish is a qualification (4) for the pastor seems clear enough and the ambiguous use of “their tradition and history” is stated in the job summary (2). The fact that this parish’s largest membership is Spanish-speaking (over 50%) is not apparent at all. So one could also conclude that its impact on the mission and ministry, at least in terms of the pastor’s actual praxis is not explicit and may be quite ambiguous. Finally, taken along with the Mission Statement , the job description indicates that the pastor’s leadership is organized, collaborative, and wide, very interested in the development of one cohesive Catholic Christian Community, but not in any identifiable way addressing the two cultures and languages. This leads us to question how a culture as distinctive as that of newly arrived Mexicans, or that of 2nd generation Mexican-Americans will be understood by this pastor. Will they be “another parish group”? Does a pastor have any special responsibilities to a culture other than his own?

The pastor’s historical role response in a changing parish:

Leaders often portray themselves as change-agents and there is often good reason to think so. However, much of what a pastoral minister does is respond to fellow Christians needs, and the pastor’s leadership depends greatly on his/her understanding of the parish itself and the people that make it up. A closer look at how a changing parish has affected and helped to change the role of pastor would seem helpful here, after which some notions of tradition and the role of culture in passing on the Tradition will follow.

In the years since World War II, and particularly since the Second Vatican Council, the American Catholic parish has undergone tremendous and unparalleled changes. Sometimes called “revolutionary”, these and numerous other changes took place at the precise moment that American society was being transformed from top to bottom. As vocations declined and volunteers and non-ordained Catholics appeared in roles traditionally served by priests or sisters, there was a growing recognition of and permanence of full-time lay ministers. In the 70’s and 80’s they supplemented the work of the work of the priest and soon became a permanent fixture in parishes. By the 1980’s three out of five recognized parish leaders were women yet still in most cases men still controlled the parish, causing noticeable dissatisfaction.

With the growth of income and change in education level and lifestyle of many Catholics, came a re-settling farther away from the urban centers of Catholic ghettoes and a new suburban parish developed; like the people it served, it became captive to the suburb. Heavily influenced by a growing privatization of life, concern for the common good often did not go much beyond the suburban parish and seldom bridged the growing distance from the urban parishes. When liturgies reinforced this privatization in many parishes the results were tragic as “the intrinsic link between liturgy and social action, so characteristic of the American liturgical movement, was largely lost….” Likewise the growing division of society along racial lines has contributed to developing two very different kinds of parishes. In the urban areas, Hispanic and Black parishes, feeling the lack of Hispanic or Black priests, increasingly relied on their own lay leadership and emphasized the importance of their own religious and cultural traditions.

Another major cultural development was the decline of denominationalism. Religion then could well replace ethnicity as a person’s badge of identity. By the 1970’s such intense identification was giving way to “a greater degree of social and cultural homogeneity” which produced what Robert Wuthnow called the “special purpose group”. These groups (e.g. Marriage Encounter, Bread for the World, Pax Christi), often had a very positive effect on the church on the local and national level, but also contributed to the diversity of parish life and the encouragement of distinct communities or constituencies within the same parish.

The pastor’s changing role, symbolized in such metaphors as “Ombudsman - the do-it-all parish curate”, to a specializing, professional “Absent Priest in a Floating Parish”, to the emergence of the “Orchestra Leader” has been to a greater or lesser degree a conscious effort to redefine priestly leadership from the inside out. Yet, there remains the fact that the changes undergone by our American society and in the Catholics that it helped to form, continues to produce much of the social grouping with its boundaries and presuppositions, it’s hopes and the values (or disvalues), and its means of communicating and sharing this identity within and through the parish community. The pastor may well have been effective or ineffective as a leader, based not so much on his personal good will, best intentions and spiritual asceticism as much as on his ability to be alert to, grasp and respond to those yearnings and struggles found (but sometimes hidden) in the changing culture.

The growing significance of culture for a pastor’s leadership

Against this backdrop of a changing culture in our north American society and hence in the parish is the significant presence and outspokenness of distinct cultures in our urban parishes, as well as growing influence in many suburban parishes. Rapid cultural change signified by sudden use of Spanish, Creole, Vietnamese and other languages, starkly different understandings of signs and symbols (such as colors, music, foods, etc), and the demands for ritual which carry meaning for one group but not for others, has produced an atmosphere of a confusing (although not unfriendly) international marketplace in some parishes. A pastor’s leadership, if intent on unity for such a community, may be tremendously challenged. As Schreiter puts it

“Cultural diversity among Christians is a fact. At the same time, however Christians believe that unity is one of the signs of God’s church. What unity means in the concrete is differently understood, but it does involve the Pauline ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all’ {Ephesians 4: 5}.”

It is no longer sufficient to be able to speak and reflect from one’s own culture as “our culture” if a pastor wants to somehow be linked and in any way effective with parishioners in another culture.

Often, without the jolting experience of living (as a minority) in someone else’s culture, we labor under the impression that there is only one culture, our own. Our training, our personal experience has rarely prepared us for leadership in such a diverse group. And, more often than not, like much of the theology carried and offered to (or imposed on) the Christian peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, our highly developed notions of pastoral leadership are seen for what they are, conditioned by and responsive to a culture which is not this parish group’s culture. Confusion and frustration may then be the lot of the multi-cultural parish pastor until the effort is made to develop some new skills and a new notion of pastoring, one that is responsive to and effective with cultural new-comers. Such a pastor will be open, ready to learn, and able to admit his role begins as an “outsider.”

Evangelization and Culture

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery

of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord.”

As Pope Paul VI taught , the witness that Jesus Christ gives of himself in the Gospel of Luke is summed up by his mission, and hence the mission of the church, to “proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God”. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation of the church, her “deepest identity.” Beginning by being evangelized herself, the Church is the community of believers, the community of hope lived and communicated, the People of God immersed in the world…and constantly in need of being evangelized so she can retain the freshness, vigor and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel.

What matters is to evangelize all cultures…in a vital way, right to their roots. The Gospel and therefore evangelization are certainly not identical with culture, are independent in regard to cultures, but is lived by people profoundly linked to a culture or cultures. The split between the Gospel and culture is the drama of our times, and can only be remedied by the proclamation of the Gospel. Pope John Paul, in reference to catechesis, as well as evangelization, teaches that it is called to bring the power of the Gospel into the very heart of culture and cultures. So it will seek to know these cultures, their essential components, their most significant expressions, respecting their particular values and riches. In this manner it will be able to offer these cultures the knowledge of the hidden mystery and help them bring forth from their living traditions original expressions of Christian life, celebration and thought. But though the Gospel transforms and regenerates, it does not change when it comes in contact with the cultures.

In later documents, the Pope in Rome and bishops especially in Latin America further develop their notions of evangelization of cultures as they reflect on the effects of global industrialization, socio-economic changes, and the experiences of cross cultural evangelization. Examples of growing insights from the study of cultures are apparent, and are demonstrated in the careful re-consideration given to popular religiosity (especially in Puebla, 1979 #444-469, and in Faith and Inculturation, 1987, III: 1-10), the value of “mission countries” evangelizing in a mutuality in mission (To the Ends of the Earth, 1986, #33-39), and the developing understanding of “inculturation” of the faith (Faith and Inculturation, 1987).

As the Church reflects on the role of culture and the give and take needed for evangelizing cultures there has developed a growing respect for and critical understanding of popular religiosity as Christian wisdom of the common people capable of fashioning a vital synthesis. In its creative mix of the divine and human, Christ and Mary, communion and institution, person and community, faith and homeland, intelligence and emotion, popular religiosity embodies the Gospel way of life and can be a principle of discernment through which they spontaneously sense when the gospel is served in the Church and when it is emptied of its contents and stifled by other interests.

Importance of seeing theology as contextualized by culture

It is naturally difficult to “listen” to a culture, at least in the beginning. Looking beyond theology into anthropology to provide some insights and tools may assist any such efforts. The research and ongoing critical reflection being done by missionary/anthropologists offers a perspective from the experience of outsider evangelizers and theologians towards a respectfully open yet faithful (to the transformative Christian message) interchange with other cultures.

Since the 1950’s there was the growing sense that theologies brought over from the older churches of the North American community were not fitting the different cultural settings of the new churches in parts of Africa and Asia . At the same time, a shifting perspective in Latin American churches to the development and practice of a theology that could make sense of the Christian message in circumstances of poverty, oppression and violence (theology of liberation) was contributing to three recurring concerns for pastoral leaders towards re-thinking the form and content of theology.

New questions were being asked (the use of Eucharistic wine in countries whose culture forbade fermented beverages, the foreign-ness and magical understanding of bread, the ambiguity of water as a baptismal sign in places, are but examples) for which traditional theology had no ready answers. Old answers were being found inadequate for Blacks who detected racism in patterns of theological response, to women who were discovering widespread exclusion of their experience in mainstream Christian thought, to many men and women engaged with new questions in their ministry. The third concern, a non-traditional, new kind of Christian identity was emerging, which had particular sensitivity in the areas of context (to avoid irrelevancy or ideological manipulation), procedure (recognizing the patterns within the culture used in producing meaning), and history (in all its ambiguities it must be attended to along with the enduring reality of grace). Terms such as “contextual theology” or “local theology” describe the emergence of something very new both in theologizing and in pastoral leadership. As soon as one begins to understand theology as the way religion makes sense in any particular culture one is bound to have to begin to look for appropriate and very likely different presuppositions and questions for being a (theologizing) religious leader for that people. This highlights the critical importance of being a “student” of the culture in order for the expatriate pastoral agent or theologian to be engaged in any kind of truly effective evangelization.

A consideration of such “local theologies” would be a good starting point for a pastoral leader beginning to understand that his parish encompasses groups of parishioners with whom communication and collaboration is particularly frustrated by cultural differences. Robert J Schreiter offers three characteristics important in any cultural analysis for local theologies .

First, it must be holistic, that is avoiding concentrating on one part of the culture and discounting other parts. What might seem as simply “popular culture” (folk traditions, practices, religiosidad popular) and dismissed in favor of “high culture” (explicit religious beliefs, art, formal literary expressions) may prevent an understanding of something quite essential (such as ways of historically coping with oppression). Religion is, for an anthropologist, as much a way of life as it is a view of life. For example, practices of magic and superstition will be as important as theology to understand the tasks (integration, maintenance of stability, and transformation) of that local theology to the local community.

Second, it must be able to address what shapes identity in a culture, i.e. what gives it distinctiveness as a group, the bonds of commonality, and the processes sustaining those bonds. These categories usually are concerned with group-boundary formation (we/they, child/adult, male/female, intiated/unitiated, married/unmarried, living/dead) which will tell a lot about the status and role of individuals in that culture, and with world-view formation (how that culture accounts for phenomena, the situations it needs to confront, and how much the world-view needs to be a shared one). The interaction of that culture’s group boundary formation and its world-view formation will have an important effect on content, interest and style of their local theology.

Third, it must be able to deal with social change. Theologizing in another culture will grow irrelevant if it only maintains the status quo out of concern for preserving stable identity. The theology needs also to develop ways to creatively and effectively deal with such forces as globalization and assimilation.

But many a willing pastor can find himself simply overwhelmed by the dramatic distinctiveness of another culture in the parish community, certainly Christian but otherwise incomprehensible and confusing to him. The question arises “How can I ever begin to accurately understand and adequately speak with the ‘other’ culture”? What kind of “listening” will this take? And how am I to avoid mashing the other cultures or subcultures in my efforts at evangelization?

Semiotics and the developing impact of Hispanic-American Theology While the pastor is not likely to be a linguistic specialist, some practical hints and insights might come from the recent use of semiotics as an interpretative tool for intercultural communication. Semiotics studies signs and the relationships between signs. Signs (pointing to something besides themselves) are related to one another by means of codes. Codes (what allow the interpretation of the barrage of signs cultural human beings are exposed to) and connected with signs produce the messages in a culture, a kind of “sentence” which may be called a “cultural text”. Semiotic analysis of culture consists in reading this cultural text that may be more about the “way of life” of a culture than its “view of life” .

In a large number of North American parishes in California and the southwest and in a growing number of our urban parishes throughout the United States the most significant cultural group are the U.S. Hispanic Catholics. A culture which is both distinctive from what is called the North American culture yet very much a part of our North American Catholic experience, Hispanic Catholics have historically undergone the painful experience that their culture is defined more by the violent and unequal encounter of cultures than by the culture itself. Unlike those in the dominant culture for whom “culture” is transparent, Hispanic Catholics (because of this violent and unequal encounter with cultures) have the insight of knowing themselves more as different from another group’s culture than as a culture. In his investigation on reading “little stories” such as “St. Martin de Porres”, and following up on Virgilio Elizondo’s use of symbolic-cultural and sociohistorical analyses, Alex García-Rivera described how semiotics can help produce a cultural mosaic of tiles, each a “little story”. Unlike an ordinary, inflexible mosaic, the cultural mosaic may change according to the nature of the cultural encounter. The “insiders” perspective can be seen as that of the artist, the “outsider’s” perspective and role as that of the art critic. In this analogy, they both need each other for the enterprise of successful art, the critic interpreting the piece for others (and gaining wisdom), the artist able to have the value of the art communicated. García-Rivera used the analogy to challenge the misguided inclination of some to call for abandonment of any outsider perspectives in the question of speaking for Hispanics – Only the insider perspective, the speaker and the hearer would be valid. Rather, and precisely because of the uneven cultural encounter, the outsider specialist using semiotics of culture can interpret the works of others with confidence. For semiotics demands that the specialist be clear about what perspective to use, and to use it consistently, in order to communicate the value of the (in this case) “little stories” and make them understandable to those unfamiliar with them. Such an approach keeps in mind the “twin principles of cultural encounter”…identity and change.

Careful and systematic approaches to the study of traditional cultures such as those designed and adapted by Virgilio Elizondo, Robert Schreiter, and Alex García-Porres demonstrate that there can be an effective ways for outsider (but properly skilled) pastoral leaders to live and function within another culture without dominating it or assimilating it. However, one’s role (especially a privileged one as pastor) may well be in need of such open and critical dialogue and discernment. It is very important, as Allan Deck repeatedly reminds us , to remember that assimilation and subtle oppression is still very much contributes to the profoundly conflictual cultural experience of rechazo (rejection) of Hispanic Catholics by other North Americans. Understandably, any uncritical, non “trans-cultural” efforts at “organizing them” may well be met with resistance and even anger. So it will be absolutely essential to the multicultural pastor to study the growing U.S. Hispanic Catholic experience and efforts in attending to and addressing their own religious reality and developing a plan for ministry and evangelization.

To evangelize the Hispanic community is to evangelize the U.S. culture. As Allan Deck and other Hispanic theologians points out, the evangelization of U.S. Hispanics, even by other Hispanics, is a very challenging proposition. It is not a private affair but happens in community. It is serious about personal conversion and a maturing, discerning spirituality but cannot be limited to a preoccupation with the individual’s salvation. And the context of this evangelization is shared cultures, often in conflict with each other but never unrelated. It cannot be done in a vacuum, or as if the effects of Americanization could be turned off like a faucet. To think otherwise, that the customs, values, language, and traditions of Hispanics can be preserved is not substantiated by the data . Patterns of assimilation show that 2nd generation Hispanics are usually well along the way to taking on the culture of their parents’ adopted country. Efforts at preparing pastors and forming pastoral agents who know Spanish and are sensitive to Hispanic values and beliefs need to be matched by developing their critical sensitivity to North American culture. The crucial issue is not only how to welcome Hispanics (especially newcomers) and offer an affirming, open environment but also how to promote the growth of a critical awareness of the serious difference between the values of the Gospel and some values promoted by U.S. culture. This is not easy for it requires a critical cultural consciousness rare in human beings. North Americans tend to take their culture for granted and indeed think it superior to other cultures, especially if they’ve not lived in any other culture. Hispanics can suffer from stereotypical ideas about Anglo-American culture and often see their own culture as inferior. But if the vision of the People of God as a universal community is to truly have power to transform Christians, it will be rooted in local contexts and moments in history but will never totally identify and any one people, nation, economic system or ideology.

The clash of values and perspectives which can be called a clash of cultures is also a clash between traditional and modern worldviews. As traditional cultures (sometimes called pre-modern) disappear and modern culture is critiqued, a new post-modern culture can draw from the strengths of both. As one example , Marcello de Carvalho Azevedo, developed this outline at the Pontifical Gregorian University. From the point of view of evangelization, both cultures have pluses, but the kind of evangelization promoted by the magisterium favors many of the values embodied in the pre-modern worldview:

Nonmodern Cultures

•Social system organically integrated
•Exchange among persons and institutions leads to homogeneity and stability
•Religion explains the origins, cements, and legitimizes
•Totalizing idea of family, group, person
•Meanings, values, and behaviors are determined and agreed upon, e.g., marriage, sexual roles
•Holistic (physical, mental, and spiritual health are interrelated)
•Order is pre-established and permanent
•History is cyclical and static
•The person is an object, not a subject of history
•The idea of transforming world is foreign
•Basic context for life:

Modern Cultures

•Fragmented social system, each element follows it dynamic
•Ideologization: systems organized and legitimized in separate camps
•Primacy of the individual, emphasis on microcosm. Person as the center of decision making. Rights at individual level.
•Social, economic, and geographical mobility
•Spiritual, mental, and physical aspects of person compartmentalized
•Individualism and pluralism lead to destruction of the internal order of society, to conflict
•change, development, process, linear conception of history
•Order does not derive from culture, but from consent, consensus, or negotiation
•Basic context for life:

Any efforts at evangelizing U.S. Hispanics must realize that modernity is also in decline with the failure of science and technology to live up to the myth of progress, to answer all questions. Avoiding both a romanticized concept of premodern, unsecularized cultures (disappearing with globalization) as well as the uncritical, cultural assumptions of modernity (now in decline) of the dominant group is necessary for the evangelizer whose real starting point is a critical reading of the gospel and the magisterium.. The goal is to offer a Good News that is accessible, understandable yet challenging and relevant to those who will be living in the postmodern culture. Only a serious, prolonged dialogue can correct the current tendency for both the Anglo church and the Hispanic church to go their own ways.

Conclusions: Towards a renewed Pastoral Leadership Praxis

By now is must be evident that pastoring in a multicultural parish is not for everyone! Such a parish can hardly be called a parish at all, for all its unique difficulties and transitional nature. Some will argue that a multicultural parish should not be allowed, that they are temporary measures, ineffective for all, perhaps even a plot! Maybe they are right. For the pastor in such a parish this is not any more helpful than saying to the doctor in a refugee camp that such camps should not be there, so neither should she. So, for the pastor that remains in such a setting in all its ambiguity and pluriformity, I offer these conclusions: First, any critical reflection on leadership in a parish which is undergoing rapid and profound cultural change in its membership will quite likely be a fruitful exercise, especially when done in collaboration with peers, with other staffpersons, and parishioners open to and capable of such reflection. It is also necessary, if the pastor’s leadership and ministry is to be responsive and relevant to the people. The temptation is not to reflect at all (especially with others). When caught up in the day-to-day demands of pastoring and administration, it is not uncommon for a pastor to have little conscious or critical understanding of his own role, the expectations of the parish leadership. While understandable, this will lead to tremendous stress, confusion and even collapse or lethargy.

Second, management theory can be very helpful to determine what priorities are truly worth dedicating precious resources, time and effort for. The seemingly urgent tasks may not seem, upon such a praxis reflection, the most important ones. One of these may be further study of culture or language, learning their stories, appreciating their expressions of wisdom, eating their food, dancing their dances! Another may be learning how and when to ask for the right kind of help and involvement from the parishioners.

Third, the images used for the pastor’s leadership and for the multicultural parish are crucial. The pastor cannot be the only leader, he cannot make solitary decisions for members of a culture he hardly knows, he must allow room for his questioning and learning. If the image allows for incompleteness and interdependence it cannot be all inclusive and hyper-responsible. If much of his work and effort will need to be around listening and mutual exchange, he may need to learn to exempt himself from designing and running programs and leading groups in situations which he has little understanding of. The multicultural parish cannot be expected to operate or look like a family or even one, happy, harmonious community. It can be more a community of communities and the pastor one of many leaders. Whatever images are used, they will need to stir the imagination of more than the pastor. To be effective such key images and paradigms may have to reflect the ebb and flow of the multicultural parishioners, and indeed, be products of group reflection in such an ambiguous fluid setting.

A pastor’s strategies: An example of some new job elements for a renewed praxis (a new job description) for the pastor in a multicultural parish:

“The pastoral leader of this “Christian community of communities” commits to:

? Learning how to be the SPEAKER for the Tradition to a number of other traditions in an atmosphere of hospitality, respect, critical dialog.
? Recognizing and promoting the INSIDER and SPEAKER in the culture and learning how to be another HEARER.
? Promoting the OUTSIDER poets, the critics, the skilled pastoral theologians who can reflect on and mediate meaning from their culture as the tradition learns to deal with social change.
? Promoting “bridge-people” who can address and help parishioners understand the transition that happens within their groups, from immigrants to 1st generation and 2nd generation citizen/parishioners.
? Urging shared theologizing/ministry/Christian life by developing a style of parish pastoral planning by a pastoral de conjunto which is a co-responsible ministry involving coordination among pastoral agents of all elements of parish life with the view of one common goal: becoming leaven for the Kingdom of God.

For the III Encuentro Hispanic leaders of the United States, pastoral planning is understood the effective organization of the total process of the life of the Church in fulfilling her mission. It includes the following elements: 1) analysis of the reality wherein the Church must carry out her mission, 2) reflection on this reality in the light of the gospel and the teachings of the Church, 3) commitment to action resulting from this reflection, 4) pastoral, common theological reflection on this process, 5) development of a pastoral plan, 6) its implementation, 7) celebration of the accomplishment of this life experience, and 8) the ongoing evaluation of what is being done. This is only one example of sharing mission and ministry with those who are quite willing and able to develop as the leaders and “Speakers” of the dawning U.S. Catholic Church.


Bevans, Stephen B. Models of Contextual Theology. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1994.

and Scherer, James A. (editors). New Directions in Mission and Evangelization 1 – Basic Statements 1974-1991. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1992.

and Scherer, James A. (editors). New Directions in Mission and Evangelization 2 – Theological Foundations. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1992.

Borlik, Dan Paul. Holy Trinity Catholic Church – Policy Manual. Dallas, Texas: Holy Trinity Parish, Diocese of Dallas, 1994.

Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (CEP). Guide For Catechists. Vatican City, Rome, Italy, 1993.

Deck, Allan Figueroa. The Second Wave: Hispanic Ministry and the Evangelization of Cultures. New York, N.Y.: Paulist Press, 1989.

Frontiers of Hispanic Theology in the United States. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1992.

Dolan, Jay. P. and Appleby, R. Scott and Byrne, Patricia and Campbell, Debra. Transforming Parish Ministry – The Changing Roles of Catholic Clergy Laity, and Women Religious. New York, N.Y.: Crossroads, 1989.

Flannery, Austin (general editor). Vatican Council II – The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (New Revised Edition). Northport, N.Y.: Costello Publishing Company, 1992.

Galilea, Segundo. Religiosidad Popular y Pastoral Hispano-Americana. New York, N.Y.: Northeast Catholic Pastoral Center for Hispanics (Spanish-American Printing Corp.), 1981.

Elizondo, Virgilio. La Morenita: Evangelizer of the Americas. San Antonio, TX: Mexican-American Cultural Center, 1980.

García-Rivera, Alex. St. Martin de Porres: The “Little Stories” and the Semiotics of Culture. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books,

Gittins, Anthony. Bread For the Journey: The Mission of Transformation and the Transformation of Mission. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1993.

National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB). Hispanic Ministry -- Three Major Documents (“The Hispanic Presence”, “Prophetic Voices”,

“National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry”). Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, Inc., 1995.

Program of Priestly Formation. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, Inc., (Fourth Edition) 1993.

Naudé, Piet. “Toward A Local Zionist Theology? The Role Of The Outsider Theologian” in Scriptura 45 (1993).

Rivera, Alex García. T. Martín de Porres – The “Little Stories” and The Semiotics of Culture. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, .

Schreiter, Robert. Constructing Local Theologies. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books,1996.

“The Community as Theologian” in Spiritus (1987).

Secondary Bibliography (for background)

(CELAM, Secretariado General del). Iglesia y Religiosidad Popular en América Latina, “Religiosidad Popular en América Latina. Bogotá, Columbia, SA: CELAM, 1977. (especially pp. 17-37)

Lasch, Christopher. The Culture of Narcissism – American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company, 1979.

The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company, 1995.

Van Seters, Arthur (editor). Preaching as a Social Act – Theology & Practice. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1988.

Whitehead, James D. and Whitehead, Evelyn Eaton. Method in Ministry – Theological Reflection and Christian Ministry (Revised and Updated). Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward, 1995.

Appendix #1


1.Responsible to: Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas

2.Job Summary: As primary pastoral leader the Pastor has the special responsibility of overseeing the entire Christian community within the geographical boundaries of Holy Trinity Parish. He enables and empowers the community to be a sign of the reality of the Kingdom of God. Through his leadership the various ministries of the parish are coordinated, the people are linked with their tradition and history, a context for a faith vision of the future is provided.

3.Job Elements: (Includes but not limited to:)

A. Oversees the sacramental life of the parish through the provision for liturgical needs of the people (Sunday/weekday masses, funerals, penance services, anointing, etc.) and through the assurance of sacramental preparation.
B. Presides and preaches, especially at Sunday Masses/Major feasts.
C. Provides significant personal presence at parish events.
D. Assures that pastoral counseling, ministry of care, social ministries, and other specialized ministries are functioning effectively within the parish.
E. Identifies and develops those areas of direct ministry which are most in keeping with his unique abilities, interests, and gifts.
F. In consultation with the parish council and other consultative bodies, discerns parish needs and coordinates parish planning.
G. Ensures clear goals and effective parish programs related to real needs of the present and the future, as well as the ongoing evaluation of parish life, programs, and staff functioning in the context of the parish vision and its evolving future.
H. Enables and facilitates the ministerial development of needed parish staff.
I. Oversees personnel management of professional, support, and volunteer staff through effective supervision.
J. Ensures proper administration of material assets of the parish: buildings, finances, fund raising, budget preparation, etc. in consultation with the finance council and other HTC commissions.
K. Serves as the legal representative of the parish in accord with the requirements of Church and civil law.
L. Provides opportunities to foster doctrinal, religio spiritual growth and formation of conscience for adults, for parish ministers of education and for catechists.
M. Assures proper coordination of religious educational endeavors for children, youth, disabled, and other special groups.
N. Develops commissions and volunteer corps (as a forum) for active, participating parishioners to develop and participate effectively as community and parish leaders.
O. Promotes and develops parish involvement in D.A.I., Oak Lawn Church Communities, and G.D.C.C.


• M. Div. and additional studies proper to experienced clergy
• Supervised experience in administration and management
• Cross cultural pastoral experience. Fluent in Spanish.

5.Working Conditions

• Forty to sixty hours of work per week.
• One full twenty four hour period off per week.
• Pastoral Professional, Secretarial and Financial assistance.
• Access to professional consultants.

Appendix #2


The mission of Holy Trinity Catholic Church is:

  • To proclaim to each other and our neighbors

through word and deed the Good News of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;

  • To join together as the Body of Christ

to worship our Triune God through a variety of liturgical experiences;

  • To build from a diverse membership

a cohesive Catholic Christian Community where all are welcome; and

  • To love and serve the Lord

by caring for those in need in our parish as well as the larger community.

Appendix #3

Spain Native America

BASIS OF ALL REALITY The individual soul/spirit One God creates one soul for each individual The cosmic community From the one couple emanates everything which and is sustained in existence through the One spirit/soul

THE PERSON The individual as an individual unity. . .incommunicable The individual as indivisibly united to the group. . . perfect communicability

KNOWLEDGE OF REALITY The intellect knows

? Abstraction-concepts
? Definition-judgements
? Syllogism-conclusions

it is best expressed in the single concept

The face sees

? Intuition-symbols
? Inter-relationships
? Emblems-movement
? Hieroglyphic

it is best expressed through dual symbols “difrasismos”

TRUTH Through a process of abstraction, the intellect is capable of obtaining truth and communicating it through words. Only the heart is capable of obtaining truth. It can never get it through words . . . only through “flower and song: poetry” can it be obtained and communicated.

TIME Not important A logical being. . .only the now exists. . . . “no hay prisa” we have all the time in the world. Most important It is the “footprints” we have left behind. . . measurable, but our actions can stretch it out. . . its measurement is one of the main obsessions.

SPACE - EARTH Was given to man. . . man has a right to claim it for himself. . . to use it for his own good. . . private property of divine right Belonged to the gods. . .held as sacred. Man could only use it . . . had to live in harmony with it. Private property sacrilegious and incomprehensible

ALL IMPORTANT VALUE “Salvation for my soul” in the hereafter and make a name for oneself “Salvation of the group” = well-being and preservation of the way of the group in the here and now

BASIS FOR SALVATION One died that all might live Many had to die. . .that the one might continue to live

LIVED VALUE(in America) Missioners: gospel values: poverty, charity, great zeal for all: moderation, respect for others, simplicity, good conduct and continuing the tradition of the ancestors

GREATEST SIN Heresy, Apostasy, Idolatry Greed, Perversion = turning away from way of elders, Disrespect for human life

DEATH Time of judgment, “eternal rest…”, “They now sleep…”, reward and punishment No concept of judgment…, time of awakening from the dreamlike existence of this life, No reward/punishment, only different existence