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Report commissioned by bishops finds diversity abounds in U.S. church

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The Catholic Church is one of the most culturally diverse institutions in the United States and Catholic institutions and ministries need to adapt and prepare for growing diversity, said a report presented to the country's bishops Nov. 15.

The report, by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church in 2013 to help identify the size and distribution of ethnic communities in the country. 

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, chairman of the committee, called the study "groundbreaking" because he said it combined, for the first time all available data from Catholic and non-Catholic sources and mapped the multicultural and ethnic diversity of the church nationwide.

Of the world's estimated 1.3 billion Catholics, the study found, less than 6 percent live in the United States.

Of the U.S. Catholic population: 42,512,591, are white (non-Hispanic); 29,731,302 are Hispanic or Latino; 2,905,935 are Asian, Native Hawaiian; 2,091,925 are black, African-American, African, Afro-Caribbean; and 536,601 are American Indian or Alaskan Native. 

"The Catholic Church in the United States has always been a very diverse entity, but it is the first time that all available data was brought together to map this diversity nationwide in remarkable detail," said Archbishop Garcia-Siller. "It is also the first time that parish life was looked at from the point of view of the experience of diversity. Multicultural parishes are a growing phenomenon in the United States. This is what makes this study so fascinating and groundbreaking."

To arrive at the numbers, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said, it identified 6,332 parishes with "particular racial, ethnic, cultural and or linguistic" communities, about 36 percent of U.S. parishes. In 2014, CARA says it began conducting "in-pew surveys" at those parishes and by May 2016, surveys had been completed at most of those parishes

Of those who responded to the survey, the median age was 52 and considerably higher, 62, for non-Hispanic white Catholics. Latino Catholics conversely had a median age of 39.

Another distinction in the report: Catholics born before and after the Second Vatican Council.

The report said three-quarters of those U.S. Catholics born before the Vatican II are non-Hispanic white Catholics. And more than half, 54 percent, of what it calls the millennial-generation Catholics (born 1982 or later) are Hispanic or Latino.

"The thought and behavior of today's millennial Catholics will likely have a profound effect on the future of the church in the United States," said CARA in a statement., given that millennials are "removed from pre-Vatican II Catholicism." 

Many of those have Catholics parents with "little or no experience with the traditional Catholic practices and catechesis," the CARA statement said, adding that this doesn't mean they are "anti-religious" yet.

Archbishop Garcia-Siller asked the bishops to look at the data, see how it speaks to their regions, and said it could help dioceses plan, set priorities and allocate resources.
  • Published in Nation

Together we pray: A day of prayer for peace is set in September

In light of recent incidents of violence and racial tension in communities across the United States, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops invited all dioceses throughout the country to unite in a Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities and appointed a special task force to support bishops in marking that Day of Prayer and promoting peace and healing.

In his initial and immediate response to the racially related shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., noted the need to look at ways the Catholic Church can walk with and help these suffering communities, according to the USCCB.

“I have stressed the need to look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “The Day of Prayer and special task force will help us advance in that direction. By stepping forward to embrace the suffering, through unified, concrete action animated by the love of Christ, we hope to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in our own communities.”

The Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities will be celebrated on the Feast of St. Peter Claver, Sept. 9, and will serve as a focal point for the work of the task force.

According to Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, parishes are encouraged to pray for peace in all communities at Mass that day. “Where the rosary is prayed before or after Mass, peace can be the particular intention that day. A Holy Hour in adoration is also a good option,” he suggested. “Still further, as we are called to take the peace of the Lord out into our communities, why not offer a free noontime cookout on the front lawn of the parish and invite the neighboring families, businesses, churches and workers to come together in fellowship?  Or an evening ice cream social open to the whole community?  The possibilities are unlimited.” 

Asked why parishes should join in this effort, he quoted Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

The purpose of the task force is to help bishops engage the challenging problems directly by gathering and disseminating supportive resources and best practices, actively listening to the concerns of members in troubled communities and law enforcement and building strong relationships to help prevent and resolve conflicts. 

The task force will conclude its work with a report on its activities and recommendations for future work to the November General Assembly.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, former USCCB president, will chair the task force.  

“At every Mass, we ask the Lord for His peace, we receive it in our hearts, and we go forth to share it with others. What a world we could have!” Lawson said.  

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Cleveland diocese educates on ‘Faithful Citizenship’

While Republicans gathered in Cleveland to confirm their nominee and settle on a platform, the Diocese of Cleveland, too, began preparing for the upcoming national election.

As director of the diocesan Social Action Office, Sister of Notre Dame Kathleen Ryan, oversees efforts to educate Catholics in the diocese on “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the U.S. bishops’ quadrennial document on political responsibility.

“They (the bishops) make it very clear that we don’t give up any aspect of citizenship to be a Catholic,” Sister Ryan said. “In fact, because we have a values system, we can use it to enhance and influence the democracy that calls for — by its very definition — participation.”

The document reflects on long-held concerns related to abortion and the needs of poor people. It also references emerging issues related to court decisions on same-sex marriage, public policies that impact religious freedom and a rising concern for the environment as climate change affects more people around the world.

An introductory note states that the document is meant to offer “our guidance for Catholics in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy.” The bishops call on Catholics to study the document “prayerfully and in its totality.”

The U.S. bishops at their fall general meeting in November approved revisions to the document. It is longer than its predecessors, issued for the previous presidential election years.

“Faithful Citizenship” draws on the words of Pope Benedict’s 2009 encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”) and Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”) and “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.” The revision includes at least 25 quotations from Pope Francis.

“There are Catholic issues and we raise these issues to both parties,” Sister Ryan told Catholic News Service. “We are very anxious to see the platforms of both parties.”

She noted that “Faithful Citizenship” could instruct Catholics active in politics about Church teaching and who in turn might influence the positions of their respective parties.

“Things like Catholic education, Catholic health care, Catholic social services are all an outgrowth of what we do on Sunday,” Sister Ryan said. “The last thing our priest tells us is, ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.’ We are not a worship-only Church.”

The Social Action Office distributes materials, including a CD with other resources, the USCCB’s suggested ways that parishes can educate their voters, and USCCB’s list of what to avoid. Supplied with this information, individual parishes choose activities to reach their members, such as discussion groups and formal presentations.

Before the past two national elections, Father Gerald Bednar, who is vice rector of St. Mary Seminary and teaches theology there, addressed Catholics at well-attended meetings. He described the principles set forth in “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” and he advised attendees to consider factors such as a candidate’s past performance and whether or not a nominee avoids issues or “plays fast and loose with the facts.”

“There is no perfect candidate,” Father Bednar said. “It’s difficult in this election because both candidates have expressed opinions opposed to Catholic principles.”

To give a fair hearing to both sides, Father Bednar recommends that voters read a liberal newspaper, like The New York Times, and a conservative newspaper, like The Wall Street Journal for two weeks and then compare views reported there to Church teaching.

Sister Ryan said the Social Action Office does not overlook the youngest voters. She serves as the diocesan liaison to the Catholic Schools for Peace and Justice network, a longtime fixture in each of the diocese’s 20 Catholic high schools. Representatives in individual schools deliver materials to designated teachers or guidance counselors to use as they choose. Students in schools that hold mock elections, for example, apply the information when selecting candidates.

“In the (Catholic) colleges, we have a similar relationship,” Sister Ryan said. “We have a long history of social action in this diocese, and so we have very good relationships with all these different entities.”

She hopes Catholic voters will familiarize themselves with “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” before the November election.

“I’m very grateful to the bishops for coming out with this document as a way of informing people of the issues that are of importance in our day (and) of their hope and encouragement to be an active citizen,” Sister Ryan said. 

Article written by Jerri Donohue, Catholic News Service.

Read the document: “Faithful Citizenship” 
  • Published in Nation

Lift Every Voice and Sing

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops document “Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship”  states that music ministers are “ministers who share the faith, serve the community and express the love of God and neighbor through music.”  In our diocese, there are many different styles of music ranging from traditional choirs to folk groups to contemporary ensembles.  We are also blessed in Burlington to have the African and Vietnamese Choirs who add the textures of their heritage to our celebrations.  While styles may vary, we all share the call to serve our Church community.

The primary function of the music minister is not to perform, but to prayerfully lead and support the congregational singing.  “When words come, they are merely empty shells without the music.  They live as they are sung for the words are the body, and the music the spirit” (Hildegard of Bingen).  May the Holy Spirit continue to inspire all the musicians in our diocese to share their God-given gifts with their parishes and bring life to “empty shells.”

Article by Celia Asbell, choir director and organist at Immaculate Conception Cathedral and St Joseph Co-Cathedral.
  • Published in Parish

USCCB, other faith groups file Supreme Court brief in immigration case

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and several other Catholic organizations joined in filing friend of the court briefs March 8 urging the Supreme Court to support the Obama administration's actions that would temporarily protect from deportation more than 4 million immigrants in the country illegally and enable some immigrants to legally work in the United States.

  • Published in Nation
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