This is What the Church Can Be

Millennial writer Mike Jordan Laskey has a new article at NCR. He writes:

The event included an awards ceremony in the middle of the afternoon, and the first prize was given to a leader of the parish’s Vietnamese community named Chinh Dinh. Chinh is a volunteer English as a second language teacher at Aquinas Center, decades after learning English as an adult himself. He is a helpful presence not just for Vietnamese speakers, but for natives of all the 14 different countries that were represented in the center’s most recent class. Chinh’s ministry is just one example of how the parish’s Vietnamese community has welcomed more recent newcomers to America: former refugees themselves extending hospitality to those seeking a better life from all over the globe.

A bit later on, an Indonesian dance company called Modero performed, divided into a group of women and a group of girls, some as young as six or seven. As I stood to the side of the stage and admired their artistry and grace, my friend Bethany, the director of Aquinas Center, whispered to me that the group was made up of both Christians and Muslims, reflecting their mother country’s various religious traditions. I looked out over the packed hall, the most diverse parish room I’ve ever been in, and whispered back, “This is what the church can be.”

The U.S. Catholic bishops reported in 2014 that about 33 percent of all parishes in the country are shared by culturally diverse communities, up from 22 percent in the year 2000. Places like St. Thomas Aquinas represent the very near future of the American Catholic church — if we’re lucky. How have they overcome boundaries to build unity in the midst of incredible diversity? There aren’t any silver bullets, but St. Thomas is home to strong leadership from each of the parish’s sub-communities, culturally responsive liturgical and pastoral life (six Masses in four languages per weekend, for instance), and lots and lots of shared meals.

You can read the full article here.