Our Church today, throughout the United States, is becoming more diverse every day. As we begin National Black Catholic History Month, let us embrace the African-American Catholics in our diocese by welcoming our brothers and sisters and committing to listen to some of the experiences that they encounter, not only in our parishes but also in our communities and workplaces. Are we ready to embrace this culture and all the other cultures that are part of our diocese today? Are we ready to forgive some of the hurts that may have taken place in the past, so that together we can move forward in peace and harmony?
If we are not ready, then it is important that we take the time to prepare ourselves through education, cultural dialogue and sharing of our lived experiences with an open heart and through prayer. It is through these experiences that we can build a vibrant Church in the Diocese of Buffalo. We can thank God for one of the greatest gifts given to us, diversity, and it is our challenge to find the unity of the Body of Christ in our diversity.
We are who we are today because of our lived experiences in our churches, our communities, our media and our world. We cannot change everything in a day. We cannot change what is happening throughout our entire world, but we can change what is happening in our parishes and our diocese by taking the necessary steps that will bring us together as one. All it takes is loving one person at a time, as St. Teresa of Calcutta has taught us, touching one heart at a time. Our diocese offers many opportunities to celebrate our diversity. Take advantage of these opportunities. You can celebrate liturgy in the African-American, Hispanic, African, Native American and Asian communities. Look at the ways they celebrate the liturgies, and participate in them.
Another step toward growing in our relationships together is communication - honest, pure and loving communication. We are the Body of Christ, so if one part is hurting, we are all hurting, and we need to work toward its healing. God has the power of transforming the hurt of one person for the development and growth of another person. It is through this transformation that the person who is hurt is healed, then both people can walk together stronger and can celebrate unity in diversity.
Let us challenge ourselves to accept this beautiful gift of diversity. It will mean moving beyond our comfort zone. Look within your heart. How do you really feel about the people from different cultures? What have you learned about them through media, society and parents? We may have to relearn and let go of some of those prejudices that our parents, or society, have given us about them. We may be asked to do something differently, or to look at things differently.
This National Black Catholic History Month gives us an opportunity to learn about the experiences of the Black Catholics in our diocese. These past two years, during Lent, a Bible study was put together that shared some of the experiences that Black Catholics had in our diocese. It will be offered again next year during Lent. The Office of Cultural Diversity has plenty of resources available to loan. The USCCB website also has a variety of resources, some of which can be downloaded from their website.