Houston’s population is a kaleidoscope of ethnicities. Parishes are exploring how this pastoral objective will help in meeting the needs of the parishioners: Promote an interchange among the various cultural communities within a parish and draw on resources of archdiocesan departments to build stronger intercultural connections. Here are some testimonials of parishes who have already implemented action plans.
Holy Ghost in West Houston partnered with the "Faith and Citizenship" organization (Concetarz Comunidad) and implemented the immigration reform recommendations of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). This included a postcard campaign and participation in "Fortnight for Freedom".
A Respect Life committee was formed and is working with the Archdiocesan Respect Life ministry. View the video about the Respect life work and the Gabriel Project work in the parish. All meetings are conducted in Spanish. The parish action plan accentuates ways to “Promote faith and citizenship by engaging all parishioners.”
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Manvel had several Filipino parishioners. A Filipino member of the pastoral council mentioned activities among Filipino parishioners at Sacred Heart were held in their homes rather than on church grounds. This conversation created the catalyst to promote these Filipino programs and invite all parishioners. The first activity was the October Bazaar where there was a Filipino food booth.
Two other activities, a weekly event and a yearly celebration, were initially also held at a Filipino home. Now, they are celebrated in the parish hall and open to everyone. The parish is benefiting from the new level of vitality and sharing among the parishioners.
This beautiful inclusion initiative is depicted in their plan to “Engage Filipino community to incorporate their traditions and celebrations into all parish activities thereby exposing all parishioners to multi-cultural celebrations and activities.”
During Advent and Lent, the entire Sacred Heart of Jesus parish took part in "W I D F O" (What I Did For Others) by writing their personal acts on small paper cut-outs, made by CCE students. Each individual act was then transferred onto large posters hung on either side of the altar. Every week Father would acknowledge the acts.
Deeds were recorded in more than six languages as well as simple XXXs and OOOs from the youngest parishioners. Each week, the plain brown poster transformed with more colorful acts of service, love, and sacrifice for others, in imitation of Jesus, in His Name, as one parish community. Their action plan states, “Engage the parish community to come together as one by performing acts of service, love, and sacrifice for others. Acts of service for the week are posted on Sunday for parishioners to see, and hopefully become involved.”
At Sacred Heart in Crosby, the Homily is published via social media prior to Mass. This helps prepare parishioners for the Gospel message. It also gives time to develop a Spanish translation of the Homily for a "whisper translation" performed real time at all Masses. The parish also purchased missalettes in Spanish.
The parish also promotes liturgical and spiritual development through praying the Rosary before Mass, Catholicism DVDs and installing acolytes. The result is more parishioners getting involved in other aspects of the Masses and church community. This action plan offers ways to “Promote liturgical and spiritual development through a variety of multi-lingual activities.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton also developed session modules for Confirmation first utilized during 2013-2014. The parish also implemented an annual Day of Reflection and created session modules for English, Spanish and Vietnamese youth faith formation programs. The parish’s second action plan addresses this activity: “Create a "Spirituality of Communion" catechesis module for elementary, middle school and high school faith formation programs.”
Finally, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton developed a public awareness campaign, ministry of the month, and program to unify the parish's rich diversity. Materials included a Spirituality of Communion banner, flyers for the bulletin, and web site updates to emphasize the campaign and the many ministries offered at the parish. Messages were delivered throughout religious education classes, schools, and Mass.
A Hospitality Ministry was also formed where parishioners would greet parishioners and visitors at the church entrance before every weekend Mass. The parish’s third action plan states: “Create a Spirituality of Communion committee to address the challenge of integrating intercultural and ethnic perspectives in our English, Spanish, and Vietnamese communities.”
A committee at St. Martha in Kingwood was formed of three representatives each from the Anglo and Hispanic communities to share ideas and to develop a program. Both groups learned much from the planning process and developed a better understanding of each group’s perspective for the Blessed Mother. The group focused on two devotions: The Celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLG) and Posada to bring together the Anglo and Hispanic communities.
The result was a parish celebration, not just a Hispanic celebration. It stimulated a sense of unity. This action plan emphasizes a “Focus on special devotions, especially from all cultures represented within the parish.”
St. Raphael also started evening Bible study in Spanish reading scriptures from the Holy Bible. Participation in the classes continues to grow prompting the addition of more classes. This parish action plan addresses the need for multi-lingual bible study classes and declares, “Form multi-lingual bible study classes.”
In cooperation with St. Anthony of Padua, teams from both St. Anthony and Sts. Simon & Jude in The Woodlands developed a Hispanic Ministry Council that delivers Spanish liturgy and access to Spanish Sacraments, as required, at both parishes every weekend. The parishes hired a bilingual retired priest and share the cost. The parish is also pleased to see former parishioners returning, who had migrated to other parishes offering a Spanish Mass. The action plan underscores the advantages of working with nearby parish and sharing resources: “Partner with ‘sister’ parish on multi-cultural activities.”