August 10, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Nearly 80 Adrian Dominican Associates and Sisters gathered August 4-6 at Weber Center in Adrian to get to know one another better and to reflect on the General Chapter Enactment on diversity. They were participating in Partners V, the annual gathering of Associates.
The Enactment on Diversity reads: “Rooted in the joy of the Gospel, we will embrace and nurture our rich diversity, commit ourselves to deepening our relationships with one another, invite others to vowed and Associate life, and expand collaboration for the sake of the Mission.”
Activities throughout the weekend event not only reflected the group’s own diversity, but challenged the Associates to think about how they can promote the Enactment in their own communities.
During the opening prayer service August 4 participants mingled water they brought from their homes or nearby waterways and poured it into a common bowl. The water represented not only the geographic diversity of the group – people came from 11 states and the Dominican Republic – but also the diversity ministries, family situations, and interests.
Sister Rosa Monique Peña, OP, who ministers in the Dominican Republic, delivered the keynote address. She set the context of her talk by describing the multicultural nature of the Catholic Church, specifically in the United States. She noted a recent study showing that 38 percent of the U.S. Catholic Church is made up of Hispanic or Latino Catholics and that 54 percent is made up of non-Hispanic whites. Other ethnic groups include Asian and native Hawaiin, 5 percent; Non-Hispanic Black, 3 percent; and Native American, 1 percent. People in multi-cultural parishes, she said, need to learn how to work with and embrace parishioners from other cultures.
Drawing on the work of Craig Storti, author of The Art of Crossing Cultures, Sister Rosa Monique described roadblocks facing people when they are adjusting to a new country or a new culture: language, climate, food, illness, and homesickness. But she focused her talk primarily on psychological roadblocks to cross-cultural adjustment.
Unreasonable expectations are “at the heart of the problem of cross-cultural adjustments,” Sister Rosa Monique said. “We expect everyone else to behave as we do and we assume we behave like everyone else. We assume that under normal circumstances, we all think about and perceive the world in basically the same way.”
However, she said, not everybody shares these specific expectations – and encountering unexpected behaviors from people in a foreign country can make it difficult to know how to respond, leading the newcomer to withdraw from the culture and people.
Sister Rosa Monique suggested instead of having an expectation of conformity to see the experience as a chance to learn about a different culture – beginning with the moment when we react with anger or agitation to an unexpected behavior. “The trick is to make ourselves aware of these feelings and identify them immediately,” she said. “We are then in a position to observe what is going on around us. This will form the basis of what we expect the next time we encounter the situation.” She added that this awareness presents an option: we can withdraw or reflect on the situation and change our expectations.
After her talk, participants gathered in small groups and were given a Scripture passage or article to read and questions on how to respond to diverse populations in those situations. The entire group met later in the afternoon to share the fruits of their discussions.
In addition to the talks and activities presented on diversity, Partners V also included a Ritual of Acceptance for six new Associates (see related article); opportunities for Associates and Sisters to come to know one another informally through meals and socials; and a closing prayer service on August 6. During the closing prayer, participants were given samples of the water that had been combined at the beginning of the weekend, symbolizing their unity.
Associates are women and men – single, married, divorced, or widowed – at least 18 years of age, who make a non-vowed commitment to the Adrian Dominican Congregation. While living independent lives, they share in the Mission and Vision of the Sisters and are welcome to participate in many of the Congregation’s events.
For information on becoming an Associate, contact Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, at 517-266-3531 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feature photo (above): Some Partners V participants present findings of their discussion in a unique and exuberant way.
Top: Deb Carter, Associate, pours a sample of her local water into the common bowl during the opening prayer service. Right: Tibisay Ellis, an Associate, introduces herself to other Partners V participants during the opening session. Left: Sister Rosa Monique Peña, OP, delivers the keynote address on diversity.