On Saturday, January 24, the LMU School of Education, LMU Center for Catholic Education and Catholic Extension partnered to present “Building Bridges through Intercultural Competency: A Symposium on the Future of Education and Ministry in the Church.” In front of more than 140 educational experts and religious leaders, the event featured a keynote address by Archbishop José Gomez – the first Hispanic to serve as Archbishop of Los Angeles and the highest-ranking Hispanic bishop in the United States – as well as discussions on issues of diversity and intercultural competency, which is the practice of communicating effectively and appropriately with people of other cultures.
Following an introduction from LMU School of Education Dean Shane P. Martin, Archbishop Gomez discussed diversity in the Los Angeles Catholic community as well as the Church as a whole. In addition, the Archbishop stressed the need to understand and accept the traditions of all backgrounds while also learning from them in order for Catholicism to develop a “culture of encounter.”
In response to the Archbishop’s remarks, the symposium offered a pair of panel discussions on related topics. The first, titled, “Building Intercultural Competency and Diversity in the Church,” focused on the importance of cultural diversity with regards to the future of Catholic education and ministry. Panelists included Yolanda Brown, D.Min, parish life director of Blessed Sacrament Parish Community; Fr. Allan Figueroa Deck, S.J., Charles S. Casassa Chair of Catholic Social Values at Loyola Marymount University; Cecile L. Motus, former assistant director, Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Most Rev. Joseph J. Tyson, Bishop of Yakima, WA and Patricia Vesely, superintendent of schools of the Diocese of San Bernardino.
The second panel, titled, “Women Religious Building Bridges Between Culture,” featured religious sisters sharing their stories, with particular emphasis on the role that they play in reaching out to and embracing community members from different cultural backgrounds. Panelists included Sr. Claudette Des Forges, C.S.J., facilitator for faith formation & mission integration, LMU Center for Catholic Education; Sr. Emily Jocson, I.C.M., U.S. District Superior of the I.C.M. Missionary Sisters and executive director of Proyecto Desarrollo Humano; Sr. Rosemarie Nassif, S.S.N.D., Ph.D., director, Catholic Sisters Initiative, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; Sr. Fatima Santiago, I.C.M., founding staff member of Proyecto Desarrollo Humano; and Sr. Mary Angela Shaughnessy, S.C.N., J.D., Ph.D., distinguished fellow, LMU Center for Catholic Education and dean of the Graduate School & legal counsel, St. Catharine College.
The symposium was a partnership between the SOE, CCE and Catholic Extension, a papal society that has been supporting Catholics on the margins in America since 1905 and contributing to the growth of the Catholic faith by investing in people, infrastructure and ministries. Since its founding, Catholic Extension has distributed more than $1.2 billion in today’s dollars to dioceses that cannot support themselves.