success stories

Success Stories in Mulicultural Outreach
in the Archdiocese of Portland

Four Sound Principles for Success

-- Put people in leadership roles who speak the same tongue

-- Create a well-organized welcoming committee

-- Get to the youth by targeting minority students for enrollment in a middle school

--Encourage different cultures to share their stories

--Use multiple language liturgies

--Go out to where people from various cultures work and make direct contact with them

--Speak to their social justice needs

--Donít forget the most important thing of all, Pray with them!

At St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Aloha, west of Portland, OR, there are more than 25 first-generation nationalities. There are three main language groups: English, Vietnamese and Spanish. English speakers make up 45 percent of the membership. Vietnamese speakers make up 30 percent. Twenty years ago, this suburban parish was mostly white.

The key to being a welcoming parish, church leaders report, is respecting cultural differences and sponsoring events -- like multilingual Masses -- that provide unity.

About eight years ago, Vietnamese Catholics asked for a Mass in their language at St. Elizabeth's. They got it. Two years ago, the parish hired a woman religious as catechist and teacher of the Vietnamese tongue. The parish also recognizes Tet, the Vietnamese New Year.

During the year, the parish has trilingual Masses. The new youth group is attempting a unified approach, based on the premise that youths are highly flexible.

Catholic Charities is overseeing the promotion of these welcoming parishes by establishing parish-welcoming committees.

In outer northwest Portland, St. Pius X Parish has a long record of outreach to Latino Catholics. Each summer and fall, groups drive to a local migrant workers' camp for fellowship, political advocacy and prayer.

In inner-city Portland, St. Andrew Parish has for at least 70 years been home to a mix of races that includes many African-American Catholics. The parish has opened an alternative middle school that targets minority students.

St. Andrew's is also home to a Welcoming the Whole Family Committee. Since 1995, the group has welcomed Catholics who might otherwise stay on the margins, including racial minorities and homosexuals.

Having ushers and greeters at a parish is a start for effective multicultural outreach, but effectiveness is seen as going beyond this and having small groups and one-on-one meetings in which people tell their stories. This swapping of stories is very instrumental in creating friendships that cross-racial boundaries.