Catholic, by definition, means universal. Catholic parishes were created as a place for parishioners to come together, celebrate the Eucharist and live out the Church’s mission. However, parishes today are facing social inequalities and discrimination, said Professor Brett Hoover of Theological Studies. “There is a certain amount of xenophobia in Catholic communities in this polarized time, in part because of the anti-immigrant rhetoric that we sometimes hear in politics,” said Hoover. “The church is not immune from what is going on in society.”
Hoover has been studying immigration, faith and culture in U.S. Catholicism, with a focus on ministry in culturally diverse parishes, for the past 15 years. His research highlights that there are two main challenges in multicultural parishes. “There is a cultural clash; people don’t understand different cultural expressions of Catholicism,” said Hoover. “Parishioners identify through their own lens, and are shocked to find out someone else’s cultural expression is quite different than their own,” said Hoover.
Hoover’s research indicates that the second challenge in diverse parishes has to do with racial or ethnic inequality. Hoover said, “There are inequalities and unequal conditions for people in parishes.” Hoover has seen this unfold in many different ways. One example is salary inconsistences.
It is critical to disband discrimination in parishes, Hoover said, because it goes against the Church’s teaching. “We are a global church,” said Hoover. “All people, whatever their background wherever they’re from are made in the image and likeness of God.” He believes a start to the solution can be found in parishioners spending time interacting across languages, cultural and racial lines. “There needs to be more opportunities for people to interact as equals, and as equal participants in the body of Christ,” said Hoover.
In addition to his research, Hoover serves as a consultant for parishes to help communicate and break down some of the discords within parish communities. He also wrote “Immigration and Faith: Cultural, Biblical, and Theological Narratives,” which won first place in the Catholic Media Association book awards in the category for immigration. Hoover also serves on the National Conversation on Shared Parish Life that is a partnership between pastoral leaders and scholars working together to shape a renewed shared parish life. The focus of the NCSPL is on frank dialogue and discussion for the good of all. There was a virtual gathering of pastoral leaders, scholars, and experts that took place in the summer of 2021.
The findings from that conference will soon be published; visit our NCSPL page for more information.