March 1, 2021 | Local News

Bishop William F. Medley helps people light candles during an immigrant and refugee prayer service at St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro on Jan. 3, 2017. TINA KASEY | WKC

Bridge builders

New virtual study invites parish leaders to unite the diverse Body of Christ


Parishes with multiple cultures can easily encounter obstacles if these cultural differences are not addressed properly, say the organizers of an upcoming book study series on ecclesial integration.

For example, in a parish council meeting with representatives of different cultures, parishioners of minority groups may end up “going mute” if they do not feel that their voices are being heard or that their “input is being respected,” said Patti Gutiérrez, the host of Gente Puente Café and Podcast, which provides support and a virtual gathering space for pastoral ministers in Hispanic ministry.

Patti is coordinating this program with her husband, Deacon Chris Gutiérrez, who is the Diocese of Owensboro’s director of the Office of Hispanic/Latino Ministry.

The main title of the series is “Becoming Bridge Builders in Our Parishes: Supporting ministers in uniting the diverse Body of Christ.” It is divided into two separate studies, with the first having the backdrop of the Lenten season and the second having the backdrop of the Easter season.

The second study, called “Best Practices for Shared Parishes,” will take place via Zoom videoconferencing software on Thursday afternoons April 15-May 20. It will follow the first virtual series, “Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers,” which is taking place from Feb. 18-March 25.

As with the Lenten book study, (which used as a framework the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ book “Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers”), this Easter series will utilize the USCCB’s book “Best Practices for Shared Parishes: So That They May All Be One.”

The first series was “foundational,” and discussed “how does culture work,” said Patti, explaining that that series explored “what is my natural way of responding when someone of a different culture is introduced to me?”

She said the “Best Practices” study will delve deeper and help pastoral ministers in “building our skills to communicate more effectively.”

Deacon Chris said that even though this initiative is being offered by his office and Gente Puente, it will go beyond “Hispanic and Anglo” topics.

“This is for all ethnic groups integrating together,” he said, noting that the diocese currently has 14 parishes with a significant Latino population, as well as two parishes with a significant Burmese population. People of many other cultures continue to find homes in parishes across western Kentucky as well.

“Prior to COVID-19, we were starting to make better progress on integrating,” said Deacon Chris. But when activities, liturgies and other events were shut down in spring 2020, everything came to a halt.

He acknowledged that some parishioners continue to meet and pray together virtually, but they’re typically limited to one language – without a chance at integration among cultures, which is easier to do in-person.

He hopes that these virtual series will help parishes “pick up in a stronger way than we left off” in ecclesial integration.

Patti agreed: “Right now, because we’re on pause with ministries, it’s a good time to see where there are things to possibly modify (in the parish) to make it better for newcomers or different cultural groups.”

Deacon Chris said this is a lot to reflect on during this time of “pause.”

For instance, he said, if someone is bringing in a keynote speaker for an event, will the keynote be someone who can speak to the various cultural experiences of the audience?

He and Patti recommended parishes having multiple staff and parish leaders attend the series, so that they can participate together and foster better discussion about integration in their individual communities.

But Patti added that this series will be beneficial for “anybody in a leadership position wanting to help people become more welcome to the newcomer.”

Learn more

Those who missed the first series during Lent and who would like to learn more can access these resources:


Easter Series: Best Practices for Shared Parishes

Join us for a six-week journey exploring how a shared parish can become more united through a process of ecclesial integration.

  • Week 1 – April 15: Introduction and Q&A
  • Week 2 – April 22: Shared parishes and intercultural sensitivity
  • Week 3 – April 29: The Catholic understanding of the parish life and mission
  • Week 4 – May 6: Part 1 of the developmental process of ecclesial integration/inclusion and stewardship in shared parishes
  • Week 5 – May 13: Part 2 of the developmental process of ecclesial integration
  • Week 6 – May 20: Putting it all together in our parishes

Patti Gutiérrez, host of the Gente Puente Café and Podcast, will guide the discussions which will be held each Thursday via Zoom from 2-3:30 p.m. Register at Registration per parish team is $25; registration per individual is $10. Required text to purchase for this Easter series is “Best Practices for Shared Parishes: So That They All May Be One” (Bilingual). This may be purchased at Financial assistance available if needed. For more information contact Deacon Chris Gutiérrez, director of Hispanic/Latino Ministry, at [email protected] or (270) 880-8018.

Originally printed in the March 2021 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.


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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
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