In Papua New Guinea there are over 800 local languages. There are also in fact over 800 local cultures. Every language in the world carries or creates a distinctive culture. You can say that there are as many distinctive cultures as there are languages in the world.
It gets more complex than that. It is also fair to say that dialects of a language also have their own cultures which are as distinctive as the dialects.
I say this because this has great implications for the church. You would expect that the Latin Catholic Church caters to as many cultures as exist in the world. A priest must be able to form a parish (family) out of all the different cultures which come to his parish.
As I said, you would expect that in a Latin Catholic parish but would you expect it in a Ukrainian Catholic Church?
Perhaps many clergy think and expect that they are only dealing with one culture in our church. Ukrainian culture! But stop! Let’s look at it. The Ukrainian Catholic Church today has close to 50 bishops who live in many different countries which have so many different languages. I don’t know for sure but I would expect that over half the members of our church today do not understand Ukrainian at all and even more understand it very poorly.
Let’s look at English for a moment. There is English in England, Canada, USA, Australia, and elsewhere. The language differs in each of these countries as do the cultures. Australians and Americans have similar qualities but they are certainly culturally unique. Let’s further look at English as spoken in just one parish in a Ukrainian church. Young people speak one way, adults the other, each immigrant speaks English in their own way. Young people have their own culture as do older people and so on.
All of this has implications for the Bishop, Parish priest, Parish council and everyone in the pew! How do you bring all these cultures together and build one family? Is this alone or the lack of admission that there are separate distinctive needs in a variety of people, a reason why people leave the church or refuse to join it? After all a parish is a place where all must feel at home. The church must in its Vision 2020, think about this as well.
Our Patriarch Sviatoslav in 2014 in Toronto said: “Our Ukrainian Catholic Church is a church that comes from the Ukrainian people but is a church that is for the entire human race.” Patriarch Husar said it and so did Metropolitan Sheptytsky in 1931.
This indeed is a challenge for all of us. We must rethink our concept of our own church. We happen to live in Australia, others live elsewhere, yet we are all part of one worldwide church and so it must be.
Briefly, this is our task. We must meet and accept people and understand the needs and traditions of all who call our parish their home. We must make them feel welcome and must respect their various backgrounds. We build bridges, find common opportunities for work and dialogue. We may need to have liturgies in various languages where appropriate.
Most importantly of all, we must realize that the only reason we have a parish or community in the first place is Jesus Christ. He must become central to our focus and attention. He then helps all the human problems quite manageable!
Picture resource: http://wellbehavedhistory.com/2015/09/12/world-languages-chart-tues-wed-915-916/
This post is also available in: Ukrainian