When it comes to teaching stewardship in diverse multicultural and multilingual communities, one size definitely does not fit all. How should parishes and dioceses approach the opportunities and challenges of diverse ethnic, cultural, and economic groups?
Unity in diversity is the vision that the bishops of the United States proclaimed in Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity (WS), which was published in 2000 during the Great Jubilee year. Looking back on the history of Catholicism in our country, the bishops called attention to the waves of immigration that shaped the character of our nation and of our local churches. The bishops also observed that the immigrant experience, which is deeply rooted in our country’s religious, social, and political history, is changing. Whereas previous immigrants came to the United States “predominately from Europe or as slaves from Africa, the new immigrants come from Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific islands, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.”
During the past half century, these new waves of immigration have challenged our society and our Church to remember where we came from as the descendants of immigrants and where we are headed as people who are on the way to a better life, a more secure world characterized by unity, peace, and prosperity for all. As Catholic Christians, “the presence of so many people of so many different cultures and religions in so many different parts of the United States has challenged us as a Church to a profound conversion so that we can become truly a sacrament of unity.”The overall challenges faced by dioceses and parishes as they welcome people from diverse cultures, and as they seek to engage them in the life of the Church, is magnified when pastoral leaders try to teach stewardship principles and raise the funds needed to carry out the Church’s mission. What’s the appropriate word for “stewardship” in Spanish or Portuguese or Korean? Even more importantly, how do different cultures understand—from the inside out—what it means to develop and share God’s gifts with their families, their community, and the Church?
Every member of the Catholic community regardless of his or her place of origin, ethnic or cultural heritage, economic or social position, and legal status should be welcomed as Christ and should be encouraged to feel a genuine sense of membership and belonging. This means that everyone has the right and responsibility to embrace the call to holiness and to exercise responsible stewardship of their time, talent, and treasure.
How do we reach out to everyone? How do we make sure that diverse communities are appropriately engaged in the mission of their parish or diocese? Doesn’t this require resources of time, personnel, or budget that most parishes and dioceses don’t have?
One important way to reach out to culturally or linguistically diverse groups is through the involvement of local leaders. Translating programs and materials into different languages for diverse groups should only come after the leaders of those communities have been consulted and have given concrete advice on what works and what doesn’t work for them. Once they have been consulted, these same local leaders can become advocates for parish and diocesan initiatives.
Teaching stewardship and raising funds with diverse communities will never be easy. The nature of cultural diversity makes uniformity unworkable. When it comes to stewardship and development, one size will never fit all. But as we pursue genuine unity in our parishes and dioceses, we should remember that the call to holiness is universal and that principles of Christian stewardship—gratitude, accountability, generosity, and giving back to the Lord with increase—can be communicated and lived in every language and culture as long as we listen carefully to leaders in each local community and truly learn to “speak their language.”
When we encounter a stranger, we meet Christ. We also encounter a woman, man, or child who has been called to be a good steward of all God’s gifts. The opportunity, and challenge, we face is to find ways that are appropriate and effective in diverse communities to inform, involve, and invite all members of the one family of God to develop and share their material and spiritual gifts.