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Archbishop calls for bishops' racism statement given election tension

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Earlier this year, as communities faced tensions, protests and violence, following a spate of shootings and killings of black men by police, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked dioceses across the country to observe a day of prayer for peace.
 
He also wanted the bishops to look for ways they could help the suffering communities, as well as police affected by the incidents.
 
To that end, he appointed a special task force to explore ways of promoting peace and healing around the country and named Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta to head it.
 
On Nov. 14, Archbishop Gregory urged bishops gathered in Baltimore at the USCCB's fall general assembly to issue, sooner rather than later, a document on racism.
"A statement from the full body of bishops on racism is increasingly important at this time," said Archbishop Gregory.
 
He urged that the Administrative Committee of the country's bishops, "in collaboration with relevant standing committees, do all it can to expedite the drafting and approval of the statement on racism currently contemplated in the 2017-2020 strategic plan, given the urgency of the present moment."
 
He said the president of the bishops' conference and relevant committees need to "identify opportunities for a shorter-term statement on these issues, particularly in the context of the postelection uncertainty and disaffection."
 
He also urged prayer, ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, dialogue, parish-based and diocesan conversations and training, as well as opportunities for encounter.
 
In a news conference that followed his afternoon presentation and ended the first day of the bishops' assembly, Archbishop Gregory said he was concerned about the communities that were disrupted by violence and riots after the police shootings earlier this summer. Some of these communities are experiencing reactions and tensions brought about by the election results, he said.
 
"It's the hope of the task force, of people of goodwill, that the demonstrations, don't turn violent," he said.
American society has the ability to give opinions on social matters through various forms of expression, including protests, but "what we pray for is that those expressions of frustrations don't provide another vehicle for violence."
 
Tensions had been high enough in July, when Archbishop Kurtz had said the Catholic Church needed to "walk with and help these suffering communities" that had been affected by the shootings and the riots protesting them that followed. "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 at the time.
 
He said he wanted the work of the task force to help embrace the suffering of the communities, to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in local communities.
 
The recommendations, said Archbishop Gregory, were examined before the recent elections and all the tensions and protests that have followed. The recommendations were related to race and violence issues that resulted from the summer shootings and riots.
 
Archbishop Gregory expressed hope that the Church could help foster dialogue and bring healing by working with communities for a lasting peace.
 
"The disruptions (to the) communities that sparked the establishment of the task force have been going on for at least two years," he said. "Violence against people of color is a lot longer than two years. … The reaction to the election, it's added to that tension."
 
He said he was praying and hoping that "expressions of frustration, of anger, of disapproval" don't continue to disrupt the social fabric of those communities.

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The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington observed the national Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities proposed byArchbishop Joseph E. Kurtz on Sept. 9, 2016. For more information on the day of prayer: vermontcatholic.org/prayerforpeace
 
  • Published in Nation

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

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
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