This is a continuation of Sr. Karin Dufault’s presentation for their International Associate Gathering this past May on the four I’s (International, Intercultural, Intergenerational, and Interdependent). Today’s topic is Part Two: Intercultural.
“In the 1992 resolution, the term ‘multicultural congregation’ was used. The resolution called the community to conduct a theological and practical reflection process on the international and multicultural dimensions of the charism and mission of the Sisters of Providence. It encouraged provinces ‘to promote the Congregation’s international and multicultural reality in their own particular setting by reflecting their international, intercultural nature in their gatherings, and communications and by encouraging individual Sisters of Providence to learn another language.’ Here we find the term intercultural. The General Leadership Team 1987-1992 was an international-intercultural team made up of sisters from Canada, the US, and Chile. Sister Marta Alvear, ( who was on this zoom meeting) was on that team from Chile and was re-elected to the 1992 team. All subsequent General teams have been international and have developed interculturally.
We have grown in our understanding of the difference between being multicultural, that is, the coexistence of several cultures in the same country to being intercultural. The writings and workshops available to our community, especially those of Fr. Tony Gittins, CSSp, have expanded our awareness and challenged us. We understand that to be intercultural means that we are willing to move outside our culture to create with others of a different culture, a new culture. We create a ‘we.’ It calls for full commitment and hard work and God’s grace. Entering interculturality does not mean denying one’s culture, but rather using it to help oneself welcome interculturality.
The Sisters of Providence have been richly blessed by the diversity of cultures, nationalities and languages that are found in the women called to Providence religious life. Initial Formation can often offer the opportunity to enter into an environment for growth in moving from multicultural to intercultural community living. Embracing the challenges of interculturality and an intentional commitment to intercultural living are integral parts of witnessing the Gospel message to today’s broken and divided pluralistic global world. Doing so is a faith-based project, as Fr. Anthony Gittins has reminded us. (Living Mission Interculturally: Faith, Culture and the Renewal of Praxis, Chapter 2) ‘Intercultural living is an authentic discipleship lived by culturally different people together. It is not a problem but a challenge (opportunity.) It is not easy, but it is desirable and urgently needed,’ Father Gittins explained.
As Sisters of Providence, we are aware of the challenges of intercultural communication. We describe the characteristics of intercultural dialogue as:
- communication that is sensitive to the culture and cultural context
- listening that is attentive and seeks to understand from another’s culture
- dialogue that is respectful and which assures the equal participation of each person
- resolution of and/or living with conflicts using methods that are culturally acceptable to the persons concerned.
- being curious and asking questions to understand better.
- the cultivation of relationships.
I think many of us can ask ourselves if we possess these characteristics for intercultural living.
Barbara McMullen, CDP