Encounter Project 2022-2023: Celebrates the diversity of the Communion of Saints
Our church’s year-long “Encounter!” series culminated this summer with a wonderfully inclusive Saturday evening Mass attended by guests from various faiths. An inspiring performance from diocesan praise dancers opened the Mass, followed by a procession of parishioners holding banners highlighting all the diverse saints we’ve learned about during the past year. At the Mass, we hosted visitors from Asian Services in Action, Fairmount Temple, Fairmount Presbyterian Church and Chagrin Valley IslamicCenter, and enjoyed a meal with them afterwards in the church cafeteria.
It was a fitting way to close out the Encounter series, one of the very first activities presented by St. Dominic Church’s Racial Equity TaskForce. These “Saint of the Month” presentations were organized by our CulturalCelebrations committee.
Through monthly bulletin inserts containing biographic information and reflection questions, as well as a prayer card and crossword puzzle, we learned about historic figures like Venerable John Augustus Tolton, the first African-American priest in the U.S. who has been recommended for sainthood, andBlessed Carlos, the firstPuerto Rican and first Caribbean lay person to be beatified. Each month, a different parishioner introduced us to a saint or a person on the road toCatholic sainthood, and shared a personal reflection.
We asked the parish for feedback, and received only positive responses. Here’s some of what we heard:
“Growing up primarily with stories of saints who were almost exclusively white and mostly western European, it was nice to see an intentional expansion of what a ‘saint’ looks like and what background they may come from,” one parishioner responded.
Another wrote, “I learned about saints I never knew before, all with very different backgrounds and ethnicities. I liked that parishioners presented their reflections, most shared a personal story and related it to their own faith journey. I liked the colorful banners. It made me feel proud to be Catholic and to be a member of an all-inclusive, thoughtful community –which by definition to me is what ‘Catholic’ means!”
“I greatly enjoyed the series. My children were delighted to see themselves represented in the diversity of the saints over the course of the year… I learned many things about the saints and as a new Catholic, this is crucial to my development.”
When asked “what is something you learned over the course of the year,” one parishioner responded this way: “I think I have a false belief that many saints are martyrs or have a religious vocation. I enjoyed learning more about saints that are ‘like us’ parishioners in their early walks of faith.”
Similarly, another parishioner said the series was “a reminder that our conception of the behavior that gets recognized as ‘saintly’ can still be expanded, along with more inclusivity and diversity about who can be a saint.”
Other comments included:
“This was such an excellent addition to St. Dominic this year. I wish we could continue saint studies. …Who are modern-day saints we could study? What goes into officially becoming a saint? Why is there controversy over some saints? Thank you for teaching us!”
“I really appreciate the efforts the committee put into theEncounter series. I am proud to be a St. Dominic parishioner and feel the work of the DEI committee is essential to our growth as a church locally and nationally. I look forward to the next project.”
The Cultural Celebrations Committee is currently thinking through a couple of different options for ways to continue celebrating and honoring the vast and glorious diversity present within the Catholic Church.
“I cannot be anything but what I am.” Those are the words of St. Perpetua, a martyr imprisoned for her faith, along with St. Felicity, in third century North Africa. Parishioner Ellen Euclide gave a powerful explanation to the church about how the LGBTQ community takes inspiration from this bold saint’s first-person account of her faith, family relationships and her strong conviction to truth-telling. Watch Ellen’s video in the player above. Click here to read their full story.
Venerable John Augustus Tolton was the first African-American priest in the United States. He has been recommended for sainthood. Watch the video above to hear Janetta Hammock, co-chair of our Racial Equity Task Force, give a fascinating summary of Fr. Tolton’s life. Read the complete story here.
January’s Saint of the Month was Blessed Carlos, or Blessed Charlie, the first Puerto Rican and first Caribbean lay person to be beatified. In this video clip, parishioner Marivil Rivera tells us the story of Brother Charlie and his profound love for Christ, and she encourages church members to “learn more about his beautiful life.” Click above to watch her presentation. Read his complete story here.
Faye Forney is a parish member, St Dominic School parent, and member of the Racial Equity Task Force. She was tasked with introducing Blessed Father Kibe as December's "Saint of the Month" -- and in the process, she learned a great deal about his life and his circumstances in Medieval Japan. As Faye explains: "My studies of Blessed Father Kibe could not have come at a better time in my life. As I navigate this world as a Christian and try to teach my children Christian values, I have often felt overwhelmed by my responsibilities. Contemplating his life's work and his responses to his adversity was very humbling and also eerily similar to what my own family had to overcome from secular persecution and racial inequity from surrounding society. At times, his life choices were humbling because I cannot be as dedicated to my love of fellow human beings as to forfeit my life as he did. And other times I am greatly inspired because no matter how dark my despair, I look to his example of how his dignity through his dedication sustained him, and I realize that maybe I'm not alone no matter how unsafe I feel."Our task force wanted to share the fascinating research paper that Faye prepared about Blessed Fr. Kibe. Read his story here.
"This Thanksgiving, as a way to honor the Native American peoples who so often find this time of year painful, please take some time to watch this documentary about Nicholas Black Elk with your family. As you watch, reflect upon the following questions:
What were some painful moments discussed in the video around the Catholic Church's or the white settlers' disregard for Native culture and traditions?
In what ways did Black Elk show himself to be open to God's spirit, wherever it led?
What were some aspects of Black Elk's Lakota culture that made him such a compassionate and effective catechist?
What qualities of Black Elk's strike you the most?
What are some ways that we can support Native peoples in our everyday life or educate ourselves about Native American history?" Read his story here.