Sunday, July 11, 2010

Catechesis with Hispanics: Plan With the People, Not For the People

OK, my discernment about stepping up to the commitment to volunteer as adult faith formation coordinator in my mostly Hispanic parish is coming to a conclusion... and I have just found affirmation for my gut feelings.  Tonight I read through both the 1987 National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry and the 2002 update Encuentro & Mission: A Renewed Pastoral Framework for Hispanic Ministry. There is much wisdom in these two short documents - but for me they are also a source of some frustration that this vision seems largely unrealized in my own diocese. I suspect this is true in many places, however. Anyhow, I am always an advocate for working to change what I can and moving on from that over which I have little or no influence.

In my reflection about whether I would accept the challenge at my parish of following through in organizing adult faith formation, I came to the conclusion on my own that I could never do this as a "lone wolf" - as an Anglo imposing events and programs on the Spanish-speaking community- but would need the cooperation of a team from the Hispanic community.  A statement in Encuentro & Mission literally jumped off the page tonight:  number 4 under Pastoral Responses and Principles for Hispanic Ministry:  "Plan With the People, Not For the People."  The document urges grassroots consultation, saying "it is an effective tool for responding to the pastoral challenges found in parishes throughout the country." (44)

The biggest part of the pastoral challege in my parish? In the past, when we have offered something planned and sponsored by the parish and invited the community to participate, only a few have responded.  One year, I attempted to deliver a Lenten afternoon of reflection bilingually - but when we started, no Hispanics were in the room.  About 45 minutes a handful of Hispanic young people wandered in and I asked our Spanish-speaking DRE to take the outline in and work with them on the discussion questions. The event was disappointing. But several years down the road, I see in part why.

Similarly, a year and a half ago, during Lent, we offered an English parish mission and a simultaneous Spanish one on a similar topic. While we got participation from probably about a fifth of the English-speaking community, for the first couple of days attendance at the Spanish one was mimimal - the last day, the group was respectable, as word of mouth got out about the quality of the experience.

Our failure to "plan with the people" most likely meant that the offerings in both cases were not seen by them as relevant to their very community-and-family-based faith. Instead, these were something imposed from outside. The fact that the second event grew in participation was due to community members inviting each other personally - which is apparently the way it works best.

Inter-cultural communication, I am learning, is not easy. It takes hard work, commitment, perseverence, and above all, love. I only hope I can be worthy of this service. I am spending time this summer trying to formulate a vision and some strategies - one more document - I want to browse through the 2007 Concluding Document for the V General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Carribean at Aparecida - the sections on catechesis and evangelization could be helpful.

At the last Pastoral Council meeting at my parish, when I indicated I would consider serving as adult faith formation coordinator, one of the Hispanic members of the council came up to me after and offered to find me some people from their community to work with me.   I think, all in all, the Holy Spirit is in charge of this one, not me - since the pieces seem to be trying to fall into place.

No comments:

Post a Comment