Thursday, 12 April 2012 15:33


Multi-cultural parishes are becoming more and more widespread in so many countries, including Australia.  Insights from international experiences offer interesting comparisons.
The Cordate Community is an MSC group living and working in the suburbs of Birmingham, England.  They have a blog on their website.  This entry appeared at Easter time.

L-R: Mark Van Beeumen MSC, Ton Zwart MSC and Con O'Connell MSC



Our Sacred Heart church in Aston is becoming more and more multicultural. The Easter weekend was telling in this respect. We had four baptims: a man and a boy from Nigeria, a girl from the Gambia and a baby from Vietnam. After the Sunday morning Mass I was approached by a family from Ethiopia who wanted to introduce themselves having newly arrived in the parish. They were followed by two Roma women from Eastern Europe, each carrying a bunch of red roses which they wanted to leave as an offering.
The increase of people from all over the world is not typical for our Aston parish. It happens to all innercity parishes. On the one hand it is encouraging to have new blood coming in and see young families lowering the average age of our elderly church congregation. On the other hand, I wonder what the future will bring. The Diocese of Birmingham is about to start a consultation about the restructuring of the diocese and I am afraid that the innercity parishes  will be more than equally affected by it.
For one thing innercity parishes are relatively close together with no more than a mile or two separating one church from another.  Moreover, public transportation (busses, ring and ride) is widely available in the city area and many parishioners make use of it already. It will be more troublesome to travel farther or even to change busses, but it may be argued that these difficulties are not insuperable.
Financial considerations may play a big part too. Innercity parishes are poor parishes located in deprived neighbourhoods which cannot afford the services of a full-time priest. It is rather striking that the Sacred Heart parish together with the two parishes of Nechells have priests with a double function. Apart from their parish ministry they are active as a diocesan functionary or as a school chaplain.
In short,  innercity parishes seem strong candidates, if it becomes necessary in the future to combine parishes or to close some altogether. Nevertheless, what should not be lost in the process is the opportunity offered by the presence of parishioners of diverse cultural backgrounds.  They should be more than welcomed. They are a Godsend to give new vigour to an old church and to make it truly “Catholic”, meaning “universal”.