Reflections on Mission

Mission and the Religiously Diverse Workforce
R. Joseph Knapp, MTS Catholic Charities Diocese of Peoria, IL


he sixth in the Catholic Charities USA Reflections on Mission series, this resource is designed to help you explore the “changing face” of we who are charged with carrying on the social mission of the Church. The gift of religious diversity in our agency is an invitation from God to come to a more profound understanding of our mission in this millennium. This series is meant to be practical – to give information that will further your understanding of the relationship of mission and religious diversity and to provide questions that will stimulate you to think about how you are a living witness of this mission by who you are and what you do at the agency.

Leader: Welcome to this exploration of how we live out our mission in a religiously diverse agency. You are invited to be open to learn more about how our sisters and brothers of other world religions find harmony and compatibility between their religious beliefs and the mission of the agency. Please take a few moments and read this passage silently.
We are not perfect in the United States, but our understanding of religious freedom continues to evolve as part of the American experience in the present. It will continue with the arrival on these shores of every new religious community. In a society with this very important freedom, religious and civic symbols exercise enormous power. The United States has become a nation with an exceedingly rich diversity of cult and belief. Archbishop Alexander Brunett; Address to the West Coast Dialogue of Muslims and Catholics; Feb. 13, 2001

Brief silence

Opening Prayer
Leader: Right side: Let us open by praying together this prayer for peace from the Islamic tradition. We think of Thee, worship Thee, bow to Thee as the Creator of this Universe. We seek refuge in Thee, the Truth, our only support. Thou art the Ruler, the barge in this ocean of endless births and deaths. In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful, Praise be to the Lord of the Universe who has created us and made us into tribes and nations. Give us wisdom that we may know each other and not despise all things. We shall abide by thy Peace. And we shall remember the servants of God are those who walk on this earth in humility And when we address them we shall say Peace Unto Us All. Islamic Peace Prayer

Left side:



Religious Diversity
Content Reader: Over the past two hundred years the Catholic Church in the United States has been identified by its institutional presence and work on behalf of the immigrants, the orphaned, the infirmed – the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our society. From the earliest days of carrying out our mission in the “new world” the work of charity in the Catholic community has been led by men and women religious. These professed religious sisters, priests and brothers and diocesan priests have labored for many years, setting the foundations of social justice in our society. At the beginning of this century the Catholic Church in the United States is once again standing at the cross road of a “new world.” The torch of being involved in the social justice ministry of the Church is being passed to lay people. The “face” of those charged with carrying on the social mission of the Church is changing from priests and sisters to each person who is a member of society. Process Leader: Please read in silence. Then answer the questions for yourself. After 10 minutes, I will invite you to share in small groups.
The Sacred Scriptures use the image of the vine in various ways. In a particular case, the vine serves to express the Mystery of the People of God. From this perspective which emphasizes the Church’s internal nature, the lay faithful are seen not simply as laborers who work in the vineyard, but as themselves being a part of the vineyard. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (Jn 15:5). Christifideles Laici: On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful and in the World [8], Pope John Paul II, 1988.

1. How has the “face” of ministry changed in our agency over the past 5 years, 10 years, 20 years? 2. How has the “face” of the worker changed at our agency over the past 5 years, 10 years, 20 years? The “face” of our volunteers? The “face” of our board? 3. How would you describe the most pressing challenge to our agency’s Catholic identity in light of the “changing faces” at our agency? Personal and small group work


Content Leader: Reader:

We now listen to two reflections, one on Catholic identity and another from Christian Scripture. In order for our ministry to maintain its Catholic identity in the twenty second century, we must acknowledge the “changing face” of our society and our agency. We must welcome those who desire to work with us as we continue to carry out our historic mission. And we must address the process by which we welcome them into our community of faith while recognizing and respecting the value of religious diversity that they bring to our organization. Brief pause A reading from the Christian Scripture written by Luke
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few, so ask the Master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Luke 10:1-2)


Reflection Process Leader: (distribute a copy of the agency mission statement to each person) Please take our mission statement and use it to answer the following questions for yourself. After we have completed our responses, you will share with the person next to you and then share in the large group.

1. Reflecting on our agency’s mission statement what key elements can you identify that address respect for religious diversity? 2. How well does our agency apply these elements of our mission in organizational recruitment and hiring practices? What do you believe needs to be changed? 3. Describe how the religious diversity among our current staff is or is not reflective of these elements of our mission? Personal and group work Content Leader: Now that we’ve engaged in discussion about our agency and its religious diversity, let us listen to what is written in the Vatican Council II document, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church also entitled in Latin - Lumen Gentium, “Light of all Nations.”
But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place among these there are the Moslems, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God Himself far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is God who gives to men [all] life and breath and every other gift, and who as Savior wills that men [all] be saved. Those also can attain to everlasting salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek



God and, moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do God’s will as it is know to them through the dictates of conscience. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 16.

Personal reflection Leader: As we engage in the “passing of the torch” of leadership in social justice issues from religious men and women to the laity, we must keep in mind that this is a sacred light for all the nations. It has been passed down from the earliest prophets through communities of faith. It has been sustained as a guiding light of mercy and justice by communities of faith. We must remain a community of faith if we are to sustain this “torch” as a guiding light of mercy and justice for the next generation. Our identity as a Catholic organization in this new millennium must remain grounded in our Judeo-Christian traditions, move forward with a clear understanding of the universal principles of our Catholic social teaching, and become more open to inter-religious dialogue. The balance we are charged to live and reflect as the “face” of our organizations change is that “No one should be left in doubt that this mission is not only humanitarian but profoundly and primarily spiritual.” Msgr. Steven P Rohlfs in Dye not Paint: Issues of Catholic Identity. Brief Reflection Prayer Response Leader: Left side: Let us pray our response to these readings. Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind, Whose breath gives life to all the world. Hear me; I need your strength and wisdom. Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset. Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice. Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people. Help me to remain calm and strong in the face of all that comes towards me. Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock. Help me seek pure thoughts and act with the intention of helping others. Help me find compassion without empathy overwhelming me. I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother [my sister], but to fight my greatest enemy - Myself. Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes. So when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame. Native American Great Spirit Prayer 5


Right side:

Left side:

Right side:

Content Leader:

We are going to listen to a brief but powerful reading after which you will be asked to identify one or two strategies our agency can use among us as staff to promote dialogue and gain a better understanding of each other’s beliefs.
Every inter-religious dialogue has a spiritual character. The participants maintain their religious practice, they invite their partners to be present with them when they pray and they seek to understand how each of them understands what one must do to be holy. We seek to understand one another, to challenge one another to understand each of our beliefs most deeply and to grow in our understanding of the greatness, abundance and mercy of God. Archbishop Alexander Brunett: Address to the West Coast Dialogue of Muslims and Catholics; Feb. 13, 2001


Personal reflection Process Leader: Statements • • Name one or two strategies that we as an agency can use to promote inter-religious dialog among us. Describe how you believe these strategies will improve our services to clients. Personal work 1. Please write your response to these two statements. These will be collected.

Process continued Leader: 2. I invite you to share with the two staff members sitting beside you. 3. After this sharing, I will collect your written responses. Later you will receive a compilation of these strategies and ideas to improve client services. No names will be referenced. Small group work

Closing Prayer
Leader: Thank you for your active involvement in today’s reflection. We close now praying together a Baha’i Prayer for Peace. Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be fair in judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness, and a home to the stranger. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be a breath of life to the body of humankind a dew to the soul of the human heart, and a fruit upon the tree of humility.




Providing Help. Creating Hope.

About the Reflections on Mission Series
Reflections on Mission is developed by Catholic Charities USA to assist you – agency staff – with understanding the concept of mission and with integrating mission into your work. These resources are meant to be practical. They are designed to provide information that will further your understanding and incorporation of what you do in your agency as a means of living mission. They offer questions that we hope will stimulate you to think about how you are living your agency’s mission. Each reflection in this series is designed to be user-friendly and to allow for your imaginative self-expression.