On January 23, the first Faculty Pub Night of the 2017-2018 spring semester featured Brett C. Hoover, Assistant Professor and Graduate Director of Theological Studies at LMU’s Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts. Professor Hoover discussed his recent publication, The Shared Parish: Latinos, Anglos, and the Future of U.S. Catholicism.
Upon speaking to some of the attendees prior to Professor Hoover’s presentation, many people were open to the possibilities that the event might present. The room was filled with those that were participating in the Supervised Pastoral Field Education Seminar, which gave most of the people in the room at an interesting position to engage in a deep conversation. They were interested in the cross-cultural perspective on ministries and the church as well as how this discussion could give them a new perspective on religion and church practices.
Professor Hoover’s discussion started with what a shared parish is. A shared parish is a single church facility with two or more distinct cultural groups with specific worship and ministries.
Most of the night was spent discussing the problems that someone outside of the parish would more easily overlook. There are many logistical problems that can come from a shared parish: Professor Hoover specifically mentioned the rooms within the parish to be used for different events, the calendar to coordinate the different events, even the parking situation can cause tensions, and finally the language barrier that may exist between the different groups. Beyond just logistical problems there are other more deeply rooted problems that can cause tension between the different groups, specifically the power dynamics, different racial biases, as well as the different narratives of diversity. The power dynamics can cause problems about something as small as decorating the church for the holidays, and racial biases can also play a role in the distribution of power.
There are many different narratives of diversity that Professor Hoover suggested could be at play. The narratives Hoover mentioned are as follows, the “White Nationalist Narrative,” which does not take other cultures as serious, the “Assimilation Narrative,” which suggests one culture should be put to the side while another remains the main focus of the parish, the “Multicultural Narrative,” which suggests that cultures have permeable boundaries that can change as the Parish changes, and finally “Communion as a Narrative,” those coming together in common faith can relate to one another on a level that is across time and geography.
Professor Hoover then proposed a shift in the mindset and suggested multiple solutions in dealing with the problems associated with a shared parish. He suggested services in multiple language, as well as the need for a safe space and shared experiences in each parish. Hoover stated that “to really love someone, you must first love their culture.” In an ever-changing world, it is important to appreciate other cultures and realize the implications that these Shared Parishes could have.
While the discussion of shared parishes maybe applicable to most people at LMU, there are also implications that go further than just the church. Cecilia Gonzales-Andrieu, Associate Professor of Theology, made the following comment following Professor Hoover’s talk:
“Now there is a space to talk about this [sharing of spaces] because there was a time that we weren’t talking about it. We were the majority so why do we have to share [speaking to the past when there weren’t shared parishes]. As horrific as this election was [referencing the 2016 election of Donald Trump], it exposed a wound and now there is room to heal.”
Some of the same suggestions that Professor Hoover offered to those in a shared parish situation are applicable to everyday life. Melissa Pagán, a Professor at Mount Saint Mary’s University, said “this topic is very applicable to students and their circumstances. This discussion makes people more aware of the tensions in multicultural parishes and gives one ideas of how to relieve these tensions, even outside of the Parish.”
Even if one does not identify as Catholic, there was definitely something for everyone that could have been learned from Professor Hoover’s talk. With so many applicable lessons, I would encourage everyone to step outside of their comfort zone, and explore the nuanced ways that power dynamics and the different narratives of diversity affect one’s own life.
Today’s post was written by library student ambassador Taylor Clark. Taylor is a sophomore Psychology and Sociology double major at LMU. Thank you, Taylor!