Copyright © 1998, Revised 2000, Federation of
Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, Washington, DC. All rights reserved. No part of
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Because of the amazingly diverse multicultural contexts
in which pastoral ministers are called upon to work today, it is impossible to
prescribe one liturgical model that will be always and everywhere appropriate.
It is well to point out that the parishes around the country that have taken
multicultural ministry seriously have developed several different ways or models
for implementing the spirit of these guidelines and helping their multicultural
assemblies celebrate. Each of these models has its advantages and disadvantages.
For purposes of summary, three different models seem to have emerged that could
be labeled: the “cultural hospitality” model, the “uniting multicultural” model
and the “full multicultural” model.
The Cultural Hospitality Model
encourages the various cultural groups to offer “hospitality” to the rest of the
parish at a culturally specific liturgical celebration. For example, the
Mexicans invite the whole parish to celebrate Las Mañanitas on the
morning of December 12 for our Lady of Guadalupe or the Vietnamese organize a
eucharistic Tet (Lunar New Year) celebration at which the rest of the
parish is made to feel welcome. This model has the advantage of placing cultural
groups in the position of doing the outreach and inviting, of being hospitable
on their own terms rather than simply “accommodated” by the rest of the parish
as they may often feel at full multicultural celebrations. It also affords them
the opportunity of celebrating as much as possible with their particular
customs, inviting others to learn and adapt to their culture for this particular
celebration. This celebration can provide a wonderful opportunity to help the
rest of the parish get to know one of the cultural groups with whom they live
and worship in a way that would otherwise be impossible.
A possible drawback
to this model if it is simply imposed upon a cultural group in the parish is a
feeling of being forced to “perform” rather than share their cultural gifts. For
this reason care needs to be taken that the impetus for offering such a liturgy
come from the particular cultural group. Also, since hospitality to others in
this context would also necessitate celebrating differently than they would if
they were alone—for example, bilingually rather than just in their native
needs to be acknowledge that this model, too, entails sacrifice. Experience has
often shown that the cultural hospitality model is successful only when the
group offering it is well established and secure in its own identity vis-à-vis
the rest of the parish. For this reason, though, it can become an ongoing
component of the parish’s liturgical ministry from year to year.
The Uniting Cultural
The uniting cultural model
admits that full unity is a goal but not yet possible among
all the various
groups with the parish, especially because of language and extreme differences
in culture, that the cultures are “uniting” but not yet united, especially in
terms of the liturgy of the word. For example, in order to hear and understand
the readings and the homily, the several language and culture groups of the
parish celebrate the liturgy of the word in different places and then come
together in the church for the liturgy of the eucharist which is prayed in a way
respectful of the diversity of the parish’s cultural groups. This model has the
advantage of simplifying planning for the first part of the eucharistic
celebration while bringing the whole community together for the high point of
the celebration which is the eucharistic prayer and communion.
Naturally, there are important logistical considerations
to this model. First, the liturgies of the Word must be approximately the same
length of time in order to facilitate all of the groups gathering without having
to wait for the other to arrive. This consideration is especially important for
Second, it works best
if both groups gather outside of the worship space and both process in together,
rather than give the impression that one group “has possession” of the sacred
space, while the others are just being tolerated. Nevertheless, some parishes
which lack the extra facilities for separate liturgies of the word are forced to
use the church for one of the cultural groups of the parish. In order to
overcome the idea that the groups entering after the liturgy of the word are
“second class” those people seated in the worship space for the first part of
Mass arrange themselves all around the body of the church, leaving empty places.
This acknowledges that the assembly is not complete until the other group has
arrived. When the other group or groups enter they fill in these empty spaces
rather than being relegated to one section of the pews, which would be a counter
witness to their inclusion in the whole of the parish.
The “uniting model”
has been found to be a pastoral approach to the challenge of multicultural
liturgy in a parish that is undergoing rapid
cultural membership and where newly arrived groups of vastly different languages
and customs have come together. Given the logistical complexity of this model,
it is usually done sparingly during the year— during the Triduum and at
Christmas for example.
attempts to bring together all the cultural groups of the parish to celebrate
the whole liturgy. In many ways this is the most complicated of the three models
since sensitivity to the culture and language of all of the groups must be taken
into consideration all of the time. It also requires the most liturgical
flexibility since this model will also need to be constantly sensitive to the
shifting population of the parish. Just because one strategy for proclamation of
the Word works well one year does not necessarily mean that it will always be
the most effective.
This model also
presupposes that the parish is consciously aware of being about the creation of
“something new” together: that all are working toward a respectful amalgamation
of the various cultural elements of the parish into a way of worshiping God in
Christ that is both faithful to the Catholic tradition and to the particular
cultural gifts of every member of the assembly. These guidelines have sought to
outline how this new creation might come about.
These guiding principles are meant to be pastoral, descriptive, and open ended.
The dialogue that is just beginning today between the various cultures in the
U.S. and our liturgical tradition will be fruitful as long as we are willing to
continue this conversation and to evaluate the effectiveness of our attempts at
multicultural worship. The principal question to ask in evaluating a
multicultural liturgy is the same that needs to be posed after any liturgy: did
we do what was in our power to provide the opportunity for all our brothers and
sisters in Christ to give thanks and praise to God in Jesus Christ within our
common Catholic tradition? In the multicultural liturgies of your parish or
diocese, to paraphrase our African American Catholic bishops, “Do all people
recognize themselves when Christ is presented; do all people experience their
own fulfillment when the mysteries are celebrated”?24
We Have Seen and Heard’ A Pastoral Letter on Evangelization
from the Black
Bishops of the United States,” Origins 14:18 (October 18, 1984) 285.
Multicultural Celebrations: A Guide
Mark R. Francis
©1998, FDLC All rights reserved.
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