Gifts in the Cultural Shift: Hospitality, Hope, Healing – Terri Baldwin, Diocese of Cleveland

At the NCCL conference in Buffalo, Dr. Tim Hogan presented a keynote, Encountering Who? The Gift of the Cultural Hurricane:  How to build Bridges that Empower Parents and Transform Catholic Families.  A facilitated conversation with evangelization leaders followed asking the question, “What are the gifts in the cultural hurricane and how can we respond?”  

The conversation began with leaders from Texas and Florida, those who live in areas where hurricanes occur. They recalled their experience of hurricanes, sharing it is not the destruction of the hurricane remembered, but the gift of gathering, the communal aspect resulting that is life-giving, significant and remembered before during and after the hurricane. 

From this starting point, the group reflected on and began answering the following question:  “If a real hurricane can bring about communal gifts, can a cultural hurricane bring about similar gifts?” Collectively hospitality, hope and healing were discovered to be the gifts of the cultural hurricane.  

The following is a synopsis of our discussion on the cultural hurricane and some suggestions on how we might respond in our faith communities.

Hospitality: Discover who may be excluded or marginalized and welcome them.

  • Engage the laity to share Pope Francis’ simple message of joyful welcome throughout the community.  
  • Create intentional opportunities for welcome, including activities where the entire community is welcome or to consider welcome weekends.
  • Discover ways to provide welcome and accessibility to people with all abilities and disabilities.
  • Actively look for inclusion of all cultures. 
  • Encourage and reflect on the use of our gifts, skills and talents to serve others in need.  Recognize Christ’s presence in all we do.
  • Create an overall loving, welcoming, and caring presence within our community to be carried forth outside the community. 

Hope: Consider offering hope in Jesus Christ in response to the challenges people and families face.

  • Reflect on and encourage opportunities for the parish to join together as missionary disciples as described in The Joy of the Gospel
  • Ask groups and ministries of the parish the question, “What is their essential role in the church in providing hope; to pursue a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”
  • Provide places to join in partnership with youth and young adults in the community.  Let us call them as Jesus called Peter to discipleship.
  • Discuss ways to provide hope to the active, inactive, and unchurched.

Healing:  Find opportunities for healing and restoration.

  • Encourage everyone to look at the spirit inside themselves and the other; to reach out and heal another person’s heart each day.  
  • Ask groups and ministries in what ways they provide a healing presence.  
  • Consider forming new healing ministries.   
  • Look for restoration opportunities for buildings and signage: Do you have a cry room that could be transformed into a family room? Can people find the office easily? Are entry and exit signs well marked? Is the facility handicap accessible?
  • Review the internal structures of the parish. Are the old ways of doing things the best way?
  • Provide opportunities for the entire parish staff to gather, pray, and discuss how the kerygma is shared on a personal level and with the parish community.  
  • Check the lines of communication. Find out how people wish to receive information. In the cultural shift of communication, it seems people need information at their fingertips; on their cell phones. Is it by word of mouth, newsletters, bulletins, texts, e-mails, or website? Are multiple ways of communicating necessary?  

Final Thoughts

Dr. Tim Hogan describes the cultural shift as a hurricane. But unlike a hurricane, the shift of the culture did not happen in one day, nor could anyone expect healing and restoration to occur quickly. We can do it by starting a conversation, searching for one gift present, and responding one step at a time in a hospitable, hopeful, and healing way. Be not afraid and remember the words of Jesus, “I am with you always.” 

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