St Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians, “There are many parts, but one body.” By our Baptism, we are brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of race or heritage or language. Yet sadly, within the walls of our own parishes and zip codes we can discover gaping divisions.
All Saints’ parish in Manassas, VA is a Life Teen parish that appeared to be two very separate communities (one Hispanic and the other Anglo) no less than three years ago. Still far from arriving at a place of true unity, significant progress toward that goal has brought a new vibrancy, cooperation, and life to our community.
Here are a few contributing reasons:
- Event Information & Forms Translated into Spanish goes a long way in expressing invitation to the families of the Hispanic community. Though most kids are very proficient in English, their parents often are not. The effort put forth in providing forms in their language goes a long way in expressing a desired unity.
- Shared Confirmation Retreats means that all Confirmandi attend the same retreat. Homeschoolers, Catholic School kids, a number of public school populations, plus about a 40% Latino population and other minority cultural groups all mixed together on a powerful weekend retreat where they are reminded of their universal “catholic” identity provides pretty strong mortar in the bridge to parish unity.
- Soldados de Dios “Soldiers of Christ” is a Friday night outreach ministry we host in our Youth Room that has grown from roughly 10 teens to 60 in a year. It begins with soccer at 7pm followed by food, a talk, and fellowship. Most who attend are Hispanic and it is important to have leaders already accepted within the Hispanic community. This groups meets in parallel with an Adult Spanish Prayer Group called Amore de Dios where many of their parents take part.
- Core Members from the Hispanic community is one of the most significant ways to create growth in building bridges between the cultural divide. Those Core Members create a sense of trust amongst other Hispanic families who may be uncertain about Life Teen. A dynamic core should also be one that represents the cultural diversity within the parish.
- Living Stations in Spanish & English is prepared in full collaboration by kids from the Friday night Soldados group and the Sunday night Life Teen group. Over a four week rehearsal period, teens from two culturally diverse groups collaborate towards a single goal that results in a performance of the Living Stations of the Cross on a Friday in Lent. The teen actors take freezes while meditations are read in English and Spanish. The beauty of this activity is that adult members of the Anglo and Latino communities are brought together for the performance as they share together in practicing their common faith.
I believe it will be the young people who, in the end, will break down the cultural divide and bring our fractured parish families into one communion that both respects the different cultures while acknowledging our universal catholicity. As Youth Ministers, we need to take strides toward promoting a deep respect and concern for our brothers and sisters among us who may seem quite different, but, in truth, are so very much the same.