Assimilation vs. Inculturation

(By Jaime Sevilla)

Although many times we have heard about these two terms and there are even official documents of the Church in the United States that speak about this commitment, when we see the reality of our diocesan and parish communities, it is a phenomenon far away from being practiced.

On the one hand, the community that has long developed a lifestyle of faith, always want to remain anchored to that style, since the changes terrify them. However, the Gospel constantly invites us to change the comfortable lifestyles in which we live. All the apostles had to renounce their lifestyles to follow the Master, and although sometimes that new lifestyle or sharing terrified them, they knew that it was much better and they followed Jesus unconditionally.

But it is very sad when there are dioceses and parishes that close themselves off to sharing the richness of faith that the immigrants bring with them. Many priests and bishops are more concerned about financial problems, pedophilia, ambition for power, etc., than to share the table with our immigrant brothers and sisters who come to our communities with this new way of living their faith. I have seen throughout the United States how there are pastors who simply ignore or marginalize our immigrants, and for some of them it becomes even a serious problem. Among some points that stand out are the members of the white community get upset and then they leave the parish, and they are practically the ones who support it financially.

Others say that getting involved with the immigrant community would lead them to work more and put their budgets at risk. Some, that already have an organized structure and that the new “guests” must adapt themselves into it; otherwise, if they do not like it, they can go to another community.

What sadness and such anti-evangelical excuses. It seems that many members of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church of the United States of America do not go beyond of being simple business managers, and they forget that the main mission of the Church is the pastoral work with the people.

I think they were mistaken in their vocation, since as pastors they leave much to talk about. Although many are very good business managers, they run their parishes because everything is summarized to business only. The message of Salvation, the announcement of the Kingdom of God, the welcoming to the foreigner; with that attitude and treatment, they are in second or third place. The horizon and the mission for which Christ founded the Church has been lost; we are not aware that these attitudes of assimilation, sooner or later, are leading us to have an exodus greater than pedophilia in the Latin American Community of the USA.

Every time I approach an immigrant and ask him or her how he or she feels in his faith community, I almost hear the same answer, “They simply marginalize us, our voice is not worth anything, they impose all their programs without caring about our needs and realities.

Our young people do not feel welcomed and we are losing them.” When I asked some of them why they do not meet with the already existing groups in English, the majority answered, “It is because they do not understand us, we have different realities, different families, different needs.

While they talk about issues that have nothing to do with our realities, others do not care what we feel, suffer or think. I do not think I have a space in this Church.”

On the other hand, it is also true that both the local community and the immigrant community need to build bridges where we can learn from the wealth of one community and another, but without colonization by either of the two.

We must establish a creative committee that explores the feasible ways to come to form the body of Christ, to which, through baptism, we are all called to make it a reality; but with a sincere heart, with an attitude of a disciple and, therefore, of service.

Not with a segregationist or marginalizing attitude, especially understanding that we are all children of the same mother and that we share the same baptism. Therefore, we have the same dignity, and although we are different, we are brothers and sisters.

Pope Francis in his message to the episcopate at the WYD in Panama, told the bishops some elements that the Synod on the Youth call us to consider in order to value and open ourselves to the immigrant:

“Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating” immigrant communities can be the four verbs with which the Church, in this migratory situation, conjugates her motherhood in today’s history (see Synod on Youth, Final Doc. 147).

My prayers and contribution in everything I can, so that we can make this wish of the Bishop’s Synod a reality and value the wealth that the immigrants bring with them. If we do not act today, we will most certainly regret it tomorrow.

Interior Peace

Message of His Holiness Pope Francis For Lent 2018