Parish Newsletter

A Service of the Parish Evaluation Project

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

June, 2015

All Are Accepted, All Are One

            Picture a parish that is a family which is a gathering of many nations. It is a place where all enjoy each other’s company and are accepted for who they are; where there is no distinction between race, color, language or heritage. Such a place is not a fantasy; it exits in England, at St. Edward the Confessor Parish in Golders Green, London. Having just completed the Parish Assessment and Renewal (PAR) process there, what struck us was that, despite the vast mixture of ethnic backgrounds among leaders and people, it did not seem to make a difference. People were accepted for the contribution they made to the task, not where they came from or what group they represented. There did not seem to be any evident prejudices of any kind.


Growing Into Unity

            How did it happen that everyone was so accepted and invited into groups and activities? It was not always this way. In the past, the English Catholic parishes had a predominance of Irish parishioners. That has changed in recent years because the country itself has changed, especially in metropolitan London. It is now a mixture of many colors and cultures because of the easy access to the UK as part of the European Union and the country’s open immigration policy. What is striking about St. Edward’s is that the different ethnic groups do not just stick with their own people. Instead, the differences between cultures are celebrated as an enriching experience for the parish community as a whole.


Cultural Celebrations

            One example of this is the way that the parish has chosen to celebrate its Centennial year. A number of cultural activities have been planned, each one featuring a different place of origin. The first event was a Mass and Social put on by those from South and Central America. A widely diverse group of people from Latin America played music from their homelands and staged rituals and customs that reflected their native cultures. The Social Hall was filled to capacity as the entire parish joined the celebration of songs, dances and traditions unique to South and Central America. This rousing event was followed a few months later by another Mass and Social, this time put on by the Asian parishioners. They proudly displayed their own music and rituals so that all could learn and participate in what their unique cultures had to offer. This coming month will be a celebration of African customs and traditions, all planned and performed by parishioners from a variety of African nations and regions. Each of these ethnic events had a different style and flavor, but the parish as a whole came alive in what they had to celebrate. The parish was united in its appreciation of its rich cultural diversity.


Pastoral Presence

            In asking the parish priest, Fr. Tony Convery, how this acceptance of diverse cultures and back-grounds came about, he was not able to pinpoint a single reason or cause. “One thing might have been,” he surmised, “asking people to do a task that they could be proud of and that would allow them to show others what growing up in their own country was like, including songs, rituals and ways of celebrating.” He went on to admit, “Perhaps some of it came from the visiting that I do. Every Monday evening for as long as I have been here, I visit three or four homes of parishioners in a given area. They are often surprised that I would make this effort, but they tell me much of who they are and what they experience. I, in turn, put people in touch with one another, such as the young woman who wanted to pray with other women. That led to me sending invitations to 17 other women I had met, and it goes from there. Another example is the diversity in our leadership. The twelve people on our pastoral council, for instance, come from five different ethnic backgrounds, and they all get along quite well. This provides an example for others to follow.”

                                                                                              Tom Sweetser, SJ and Debora Elkins