To be completely honest, I have struggled with the concept of “celebrating diversity” especially within the Universal Catholic Church. In my mind, I felt we should focus on what makes us One Faith and not the things that separate us. Before I get slammed for being racially insensitive, I am an immigrant and I am an Asian/European mixed-race person. I love and embrace my Burmese and Scottish/British heritage, but never really thought about how that culture applied in a broader sense to my experiences in the world or the Catholic Church.
The recent tensions in the US along with a magazine assignment to cover multiculturalism and youth ministry have sparked a fire of inquiry in my mind on this subject.
My family and I were visiting Williamsburg, VA and were close to the events of Charlottesville, VA as they were unfolding. Rather than participate in the tumultuous discussions of the pros and cons of the removal of confederate statues, we were blessed to be visiting Colonial Williamsburg and learning about the history of enslaved persons in the early days of our nation. We saw ledgers that listed human beings as property and assigned a value next to their names. We were told stories of specific enslaved persons who struggled with ideas that our country and its forefathers were discussing such as freedom and liberty for all people. We learned of difficulties in changing perceptions and even history when faced with more than one huge issue on a political agenda at the same time. Most of all, we learned that our beautiful nation (like the Church) is a shining city on the hill, built by flawed individuals who are far from perfect. It opened our eyes to the struggles of varied groups of people in the United States and how those experiences shape our understanding and perception around all issues.
This educational opportunity opened ideas and conversations about the uniqueness of different people and cultures: Black (African-American), Hispanics, Asian, Italian, Irish, immigrants and natural-born citizens, all have a story to tell and something to add to the beautiful fabric of our nation. On one side, you see the beautiful colors of thread, sometimes looking broken or disconnected, but when you turn it over, an incredible picture of American culture can be seen. I have come to recognize that we break down barriers when we expand our thinking to include the experience of others. I now understand the idea of celebrating diversity both in our country and in the Church, adding richness in the different traditions and gifts we bring, but also recognizing that our tapestry as a nation and as the Catholic Church would not be as beautiful if it did not form one, cohesive picture.
Copyright 2017 Mary Lou Rosien