Social Justice: Finding unity in the midst of our diversity

By DeKarlos Blackmon
Columnist

As a former liturgist, I enjoy exploring the age-old question of how people of various cultures and traditions can worship together in community without losing cultural identity. Meeting the spiritual needs of the faithful, without diminishing the integrity of the liturgy, requires a thoughtful awareness of cultural pluralism in America. The challenge is sometimes to illustrate to the faithful how they may find comfort and relevance in our 2000-year-old sacred tradition in their social and political lives. The socio-political atmosphere of American society is culturally pluralistic; many different cultures not only coexist, but also share their respective customs cross-culturally.
Jesuit Father Allan Deck reminds us that the Civil Rights movement of more than half a century ago raised the American people’s consciousness about the importance of “ethnic identity and pride.” Over the years, American society has become more aware of ethnic differences. Because faith does not exist outside of culture, there is a greater need for tolerance among different cultures. We are unified in the Catholic Church, and we have one Mass, celebrated within different cultures.
In the church, by virtue of our communion with each other in Christ, the “stranger” (or the people who may not look like us) must always have a home wherever the faithful are located. The parish community, wherever it is found, should reflect the segment of society in which it is located. 
John McGreevy explains in “Church Boundaries” that while Protestant and Jewish urban faith communities in the northern U.S. relocated to avoid the arrival of African Americans from the South, the Catholic parish “was immovable.” While the other faith communities may have left the area, it was the Catholic parishes that remained to take care of “the stranger.” As social beings, Catholics cannot escape the undeniable reality of the church’s call to serve, showing mercy and love, as we are all in need of the mercy of the Lord. We are called to contribute ourselves individually and collectively not by mutual exclusion, but by equality in dignity.
The V Encuentro serves as a distinct blessing to our diocesan church. While the main goal of the V Encuentro is to discern ways in which the church in the U.S. can better respond to the Hispanic/Latino presence, and to strengthen the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos respond to the call to the New Evangelization as missionary disciples serving the entire church, each of us has a responsibility to engage our Hispanic brothers and sisters in a way that fosters our unity in diversity. This is intimately related to the challenge of the Gospel which has always been the same, “that all may be one.” 
As one examines the true concept of church, we must consider always unity and diversity. St. Paul says succinctly in Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). We are the people of God; we are the family of faith. Let us bring about an encounter that brings to fruition the challenge of the Gospel: That all may be one!
For more information about the V Encuentro, visit www.austindiocese.org/offices-ministries/offices/hispanic-ministry-office/v-encuentro.