By Steve Halligan
SAN BERNARDINO—On April 17th the Ministry Formation Institute hosted its XIX Annual Theological Symposium which was attended by over 260 people from throughout the Diocese. The Symposium was conducted through Zoom, and attendees were able to attend the working sessions in either English or Spanish. As a special note, both Bishop Alberto Rojas and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Rutilio del Riego were in attendance. The theme for the day was “Faith in Action Giving Hope.”
The presenters for the day were Deacon Robert Lasalle-Klein Ph.D., Professor of Religious Studies and Philosophy for Holy Names University, and Father Eduardo C. Fernandez, S.J., S.T.D., Professor of Pastoral Theology and Ministry for Santa Clara University. Both men are bilingual, accomplished authors, theologians, and professors. They made the events of the day both informative and practical.
Deacon Lasalle-Klein began by making the point that, in reality, there are many cultures but only one race which is created in the image of God. He also emphasized that in the United States we are all immigrants. He then presented the attendees with his concepts of the theology behind “Pastoral de y en Conjunto” with a review of the Theology of Grace, Theology of Creation and Emergence, and moved to the Theology of Grace for a Multicultural Community. His emphasis was on the need for us to each recognize and celebrate the unique gifts of our culture, putting them together for the betterment and service of our parish community and society.
Fr. Fernandez began by speaking about the importance of sharing our own personal stories as a way of coming to understand ourselves and others. He asked people to name the cultural group they belong to, and he then asked everyone to identify the strengths and areas in need of growth in their culture. By putting the emphasis on reflecting on our own culture he enabled attendees to see the beauty of their culture and the giftedness of the cultures of others present. He concluded his presentation with guidelines for creating a successful multicultural community.
Together, the two presenters were able to provide both the theological framework and the practical application of creating a multicultural community in the service of the Lord.
Steve Halligan is Program Director for the Continuing Ministry Formation Program (CMFP) of the Ministry Formation Institute of the Diocese of San Bernardino.