If the majority of our parish is of an immigrant background, what should we do to help them pray in a way that speaks to their experience?

Just by asking the question – and by caring about how your community prays – you are already on the right track. But the way you asked the question points to how you can begin to answer it for yourself. Do you want to know what “we” should do to help “them”? Or do you all want to know what you can do to help each other? Your parish leaders, especially those making decisions about prayer and liturgy, must include immigrant parishioners, so that your community can worship in a way that faithfully reflects the experience of all its members.

The specific strategies that work for you will depend on the nature of your community. Do your parishioners come from many different places, or is the immigrant population generally homogenous? Do they speak many different languages, or are there one or two common languages? How do generational differences come into play?

Some parishes regularly celebrate bilingual or multilingual liturgies, with great success; other parishes find them cumbersome. Some parishes highlight the different feast days that are important to the cultures represented in the community; others aim for a multicultural celebration of a single parish feast. Some parishes incorporate diverse images and symbols from parishioners’ cultures in their liturgical environment; others maintain shrines dedicated to saints of particular importance. In order to discover what works best in your community, your important first step is encouraging parishioners to get to know one another and one another’s cultures. The more they feel at home with one another, the more they will feel at home in your parish and will be able to participate in making your community’s prayer life into what they really need

Neela Kale

Neela Kale

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.


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