The “Journeying Together” process has inspired many Catholic ministry leaders and young adults, like Jocelyn George, to initiate fruitful dialogues and build relationships across cultures in their parishes and ministries.
About 2,000 people have reportedly participated in the process via virtual meetings and intracultural dialogues. About 325 ministry leaders, young adults and bishops came together for the closing event, “Alive in Christ: Young, Diverse, Prophetic Voices Journeying Together,” June 23-26 in Chicago.
George was one of the co-facilitators at a workshop that focused on practicing accompaniment of youth and young adults in intercultural faith communities. She shared her experience as a Syro-Malabar Catholic and Indian American.
“We are headed in the right direction, and we are having a lot of important conversations that so many of us coming from certain cultural and ethnic backgrounds often struggle to have,” she told Catholic News Service.
Regarding the issues that resonated the most in her small group session, a lot of young people who identify as bicultural struggle with trying to understand where they fit in today’s culture, the reality of racism in society and what it means to be a disciple while embracing one’s culture, added George.
Another common theme was the need to nurture leadership, empower young adults in ministry and not treat them simply as tokens.
“Just as working interculturally takes hard work and dedication, so too does working across multiple generations. We have to commit to that journey together as well,” said Nicholas Stein, director of Bon Secours Young Adults, who led another small group session.
“Mentorship and advocacy become very important tools in creating the paths for young people to be able to take on leadership roles,” Stein added.
The culturally diverse groups represented throughout the process were: Asian and Pacific Islander, Black and African American, European American, Hispanic and Latino, Native American and Alaska Natives, migrants, refugees and travelers.
About 150 dioceses were represented, in addition to Catholic national organizations, colleges and universities, campus ministries, and apostolic movements.
Other topics explored during the gathering included historical memory and inclusion, diversity and giftedness, practicing accompaniment and formation possibilities.
Sally Stovall, president of the National Association of African Catholics in the United States, talked about the unique gifts that immigrants and refugees bring to this country, their communities and the universal church.
“We are bringing new ideas, we are bringing our values, our customs and traditions, and we’re also expanding the existing culture that is already here,” Stovall told CNS. “We have to have a welcoming atmosphere to make each other feel welcomed regardless of which culture you come from, and to do that, you have to develop relationships.”
Jose Matos Auffant, vice president of the National Catholic Network de Pastoral Juvenil Hispana, said that some of the difficulties shared in the workshop he led had to do with not being heard, seen and recognized.
For example, there was an account of a priest who eliminated a Mass in a non-English language without considering the immigrant community that had already identified with the parish.
“A lot of hurt was centered around the priest and how the pastor is prepared or not to deal with the intercultural ministry in a parish,” said Auffant.
Tracey Lamont, an assistant professor of religious education at Loyola University New Orleans, who co-facilitated a workshop with Auffant and Stovall, considers that spaces for healing are necessary 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 intercultural competencies and pastoral care and what it means to really listen without judgment, and know what to do with it, know how to respond and discern the next steps,” Lamont said.
The “Journeying Together” process began two years ago, inspired by Pope Francis’ 2019 exhortation on young people, “Christus Vivit,” and the 2018 the Synod of Bishops on young people.
The initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also sought to start an encounter, dialogue and accompaniment and pastorally respond to the hopes and challenges of culturally diverse young people.
The suggestions and conclusions of the gathering will be compiled and offered as a resource to dioceses, schools, Catholic organizations and apostolic movements.