A “new evangelization” is synonymous with mission, requiring the capacity to set out anew, go beyond boundaries and broaden horizons, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and that means interacting with a variety of people and cultures.
The USCCB’s assistant director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, will speak on the theme “Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers” at Leadership Day April 27 in St. Joseph. The day is designed for both lay and ordained ministry leaders from around the Diocese of St. Cloud.
“Each of us is immersed in culture,” said Brenda Kresky, diocesan consultant for faith formation and one of the day’s organizers. “This culture influences how we see and act toward ourselves and the world around us. This day will help us take a look at the role culture plays in our everyday lives and particularly how we express our faith.”
Aguilera-Titus has 25 years of experience in ministry with a strong emphasis on leadership development and formation, catechesis, pastoral planning and ministry with young people.
He is an adjunct faculty member at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. In addition to his work with the Secretariat on Cultural Diversity in the Church, Aguilera-Titus serves as staff to the USCCB’S Task Force for the Spanish-language Bible for America and is the national director for V Encuentro, a four-year process of discerning ways in which the church in the United States can better journey with the growing Hispanic/Latino population.
In anticipation of Leadership Day, The Visitor interviewed Aguilera-Titus about his presentation. His responses are below.
Q: What is “building intercultural competence”?
A: This is a training that the bishops developed to help everyone in the church, both lay and ordained ministers, to be more inter-culturally competent in their ministries. What this means is to have the capacity to communicate, relate and collaborate with people from different cultures.
This is an important work that the bishops produced in light of the fact that with each passing year we become a more culturally diverse society and even a more diverse Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the most diverse institution in the United States. Learning how to work, relate and communicate with people from different cultures is an essential part of the ministry that we do. One of the aspects that we will cover is the reality of multicultural parishes and how we can build unity and diversity in these parishes.
Q: Why is this an important topic for people in central Minnesota?
A: As we are looking at the New Evangelization and what that means in the Catholic context, we have become more and more aware of our Catholic identity. When you look at the definition of a parish, in the Catholic context the parish is a territory, not a congregation. By canon law, a pastor is responsible for every person that lives within the boundaries of his parish. The call of the New Evangelization calls us to be missionaries, particularly in the parish context, and that means to reach out to every person living within the boundaries of the parish.
One of the exciting things about this work is that, as pastors and their teams become more aware of who lives within the boundaries of their parish, they begin to realize that many people — including Catholics — are not feeling embraced by the church, or are not engaged in the life of the church.
So the basic question is are we really reaching out to everyone we need to reach out to? Has everybody been gathered? What is it parishes can do to reach out to folks that have not felt the embrace of the church? And maybe sometimes that is where you find more cultural diversity. The more prepared a diocese and its ministers, both lay and ordained, are to engage a diverse population, the better they do it.
Q: How does exploring “culture” help us deepen our Catholic faith?
A: Catholic means universal. The universality of the church gets expressed in two ways — one, it is a church for everyone. The other one is that every single inch of this earth belongs to a diocese. The Catholic Church is everywhere, and it is responsible for the care of the souls everywhere. That realization is both fascinating and challenging because everything is under our care. The same goes for the bishop.
The bishop is responsible for every living soul that lives within the boundaries of his diocese. When you actually think about that, it is just amazing. Within the Catholic context, we are always in mission because we are always reaching out to those who have not been gathered yet. One of the most striking learnings of folks who have undertaken this training of intercultural competency is the realization of the true meaning of the Catholic parish. It really changes the context of your ministry.
Q: As we prepare for the local Encuentro event in our diocese on Sept. 24, how does the message you are sharing at Leadership Day intertwine with the work of Encuentro?
A: The V Encuentro (fifth “encounter”) process … engages people at different levels. It emphasizes mission, seeking to encounter others, which is an exciting experience. If you look at “Evangelii Gaudium” [Pope Francis’ encyclical, “The Joy of the Gospel”], Pope Francis says there is no joy like the joy of the missionary. There is an excitement, and that is what we have seen all over the country. We have thousands of parishes engaged in the V Encuentro process. What we are beginning to see is that this is rekindling the faith of many and bringing more people closer to the church, both regular goers and those that have been away who are coming back.
Being the national director for V Encuentro gives me the opportunity to both listen to what is being done by leaders and also to share with participants in detail how the process is working around the country and how they can maximize the benefits of this groundbreaking process.
If you want to go
• What: “Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers” with Alejandro Aguilera-Titus
• When: 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Thursday, April 27
• Where: St. Joseph Church, St. Joseph
• Cost: $25 (includes coffee, rolls and lunch)
• To register: Visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2017leadershipday.
For more on the Diocesan V Encuentro event on Sept. 24, visit: www.dmd-vencuentro.stcdio.org.