March 2001



Vol. 12, No. 3

Page 1

Father John Korcsmar went over to New Orleans for a conference on multiculturalism and formation in religious life.  Six of the Franciscan Sisters from Dolores, San Francisco, and St. Francis on the Brazos (Waco, TX) also went. 

One of the traditions for the Sisters is to stop at one of the casinos in St. Charles, LA.  Usually they are able to leave the gambling industry a little poorer.  Just the hint of a visit from them has ripple effects on Wall Street.   Sister Jacinta Amengual (director of religious education at San Francisco) played her nickel and won twenty more.  Not following Father John's example--he played a quarter and won five dollars in Las Vegas a year ago--she started playing her nickels until she had lost them all and then some.

The next morning, as they were all getting into the van, Father John (who hadn't had enough morning coffee) mumbled, "I feel old!!"  Sister Jacinta quickly affirmed his statement.  John told her that it was not always necessary to so quickly agree with him.

The conference on diversity and multiculturalism was held at Our Lady of Wisdom on the West Bank in New Orleans.  Our Lady of Wisdom is located next to the College of Our Lady of Holy Cross and the Marianites of Holy Cross convent.  It was built as a collaborative effort by a number of religious communities for their elderly.  There John ran into many Marianite Sisters.  Sister Beth presented John with a bar of priest-soap; this is to help him have a clean conscience.  There were no explicit causes expressed; perhaps it was meant for those "just-in-case," or morally ambiguous situations.

One of the presenters of the conference was Sister Anita Luna, M.C.D.P.  She had known Father Len Collins when he was provincial and active on the Justice and Peace Committee of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.  Sr. Anita asked about Len and said that he is a great man.

There were over 100 religious there attending the conference.  At the start of it, 99 of those religious were female, and John was "Blessed among women."  Feeling a bit out of place John tried to humor himself with the thought that at least the line for the rest room won't be long for him.  WRONG!!  They have unisex rest rooms.  Later ONE Josephite priest came in.

The conference was really very good. Faith is expressed through cultural expressions.  We use language, faith expressions, and other concrete, visible objects.  When we make a statue of Mary, she will appear to be of one race or another.  When we choose music, art, popular religious expressions, they are all rooted in one culture or another.  More importantly, each culture has perceptions, values, and judgments about what is good, beautiful, respectful, etc.  These perceptions are learned implicitly and are usually unspoken, even unconscious.  It is in this area where most cross-cultural difficulties arise because people are often not aware of their own assumptions. 

Since demographics in the United States are changing, one of the issues religious communities have to deal with is ethnic diversity.  It is not unusual to have candidates from Mexico, South America, Asia, Africa, as well as different ethnic groups in the United States with roots in those places.  Superiors and formation directors have to figure out what the best formation would be for a group of candidates of many different ethnic backgrounds.  One of the goals of the conference was to help people to understand what it takes to move from mere tolerance of ethnic groups and cultures to a celebration of their diversity in our religious communities.

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