By Sr. Ruth Bolarte

In 2008 the Catholic bishops in the United States agreed to pursue five priorities in the next five years. They were: strengthening marriage, faith formation focused on sacramental practice, priestly and religious vocations, life and dignity of the human person, and recognition of cultural spanersity. The latter one has bearing on all the other areas as we respond to the demographic shifts in our country. {{more}}

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege to participate in a two-day gathering convened by the U. S. Conference of Bishops through its Committee on Cultural spanersity in the Church. Various ethnic families had the opportunity to come to know one another and share hopes and dreams in our Church. Under the motto “It’s Better Together,” Asian, Hispanic, African-American, European, Native American and African families told their stories, prayed, discussed, sung and celebrated one another’s ethnicity as Catholics in the United States. Nineteen archbishops and bishops participated in the event to listen to the stories and to respond to what they heard.

In the spirit of trust, the participants articulated the various struggles as people from spanerse backgrounds find their rightful place around the Lord’s altar. Throughout the dialogue, the reality of xenophobia and racism in our society and Church were recognized. Unity in spanersity does not happen without its challenges and misunderstandings. Especially when we grasp that a Catholic perspective of cultural spanersity is not simply focused on toleration of the other. Only when there is recognition, appreciation and affirmation of cultural spanersity is our work to preach, catechize and evangelize fulfilling the mission of Jesus.

It is in the inner life of the Holy Trinity that the focus on spanersity in the Church takes its roots. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are relationships of love to one another – the Holy Trinity is a communion among three distinct persons. The Trinity manifests how love respects the distinctiveness of the other. Thus, our efforts in evangelization are not for uniformity but for unity. Different cultural heritages shouldn’t be barriers that separate us from Christ or one another. Our Trinitarian God impels us to relate to every human person according to this love. In the word of Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, “The Catholic Church is most perfectly herself when all of her children display that rich spanersity that God has fashioned into the very heart of humanity.”

During this Easter season we have been hearing how the first Christians grappled with complex circumstances as they welcome the other at the Lord’s Table. It was the Spirit who led them in their efforts to include and accept the other. May we let the Spirit of Pentecost leads us to welcome and celebrate our Hispanic, Asian, European, African, Native American and African-American brothers and sisters in Christ – especially the most vulnerable!