Understanding Our Church

A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith

Cultural diversity enriches our faith life, opens our hearts to love

Published: March 16, 2019

By Betsy Wiederkehr Huss
Blessed Sacrament Church, Jonesboro

Ever been the only one of your race at a gathering of people? Or the only one who did not speak or understand the language being spoken around you? Or ever attend a religious or worship service different than your traditional way of worshiping? It can be eye opening. It can be mind opening. It can be heart opening. One may read these questions and think those situations sound exciting, adventurous, scary or uncomfortable.

But, maybe, we need to be “uncomfortable,” or challenged at times, in order to experience even an inkling of the greatness and mystery of the Triune God, in whose image we are all created (Genesis 1:26-27), every last one of us. Sharing experiences with culturally diverse people has enriched my life, my faith, my evolving understanding. Did you know diversity (languages, races, cultures) is an important characteristic of Catholic faith? The Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church was given a mandate in 2000, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to encourage communities that are racially and culturally diverse to participate more fully in the life, mission and faith of the Church.

In 2002, the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services published “Unity In Diversity: A Scriptural Rosary” prompted by the pastoral letter “Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity In Diversity.” This letter calls for “all people of good will, but Catholics especially,” to welcome, to help and to learn from newcomers “of whatever race, religion, ethnicity or background.” In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in “Verbum Domini,” “God does not reveal himself in the abstract, but by using languages, imagery and expressions that are bound to different cultures. This relationship has proved fruitful, as the history of the Church abundantly testifies.”

We are not made in cookie cutter sameness fashion, because God is bigger than that. That is why diversity is important. We get glimpses of God as we learn more about one another.

But, I wonder, are we not “getting” or living out earlier teachings in our Church’s history against discrimination and racism? Because we are to love our neighbor, yes, even that stranger or newcomer in our country, workplace or neighborhood. On Nov. 14, the USCCB published “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love — A Pastoral Letter Against Racism,” where they acknowledge, in society, racism is persistent.

Danielle M. Brown, USCCB associate director for the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, wrote in her article, “Combatting Racism With A Call To Love With Open Hearts,” that the bishops, in their pastoral letter, “teach that through his cross and resurrection, Christ united all to our common heavenly Father. Christ’s victory through the cross is complete but the world is still affected by sin and death. Particularly, racist acts are a failure to acknowledge another person as a brother or sister created in the image of God.”

God sees us all as God’s children and made in God’s image. God knew what God was doing during the glorious creation of human beings. We are not made in cookie cutter sameness fashion, because God is bigger than that. That is why diversity is important. We get glimpses of God as we learn more about one another. Our diverse talents, gifts, music, languages, foods, ways to worship, celebrate, mourn and pray can enrich our lives and our relationships with one another and God.

Maybe, we are being called to stretch our minds, diversify our experiences and encounters and ask for forgiveness. Hopefully, we hear God’s call to love, to treat all human beings with dignity, so we too can open wide our hearts like our loving God does, for us.