Sheila Gilbert, National President, writes, “Today I received a copy of the Society’s new “VincentianGuide to Diversity/Multicultural Issues.” The Guide will be officially released at the Mid-Year Meeting.
Every day we work closely with peoples of other cultures, races, religions and ages. These relationships have the potential to enrich us,give us new perspectives on the world, and bring new friendships.
Interacting with others who may see life differently also provides challenges and opportunities for misunderstanding and for tensions to develop.
Diversity is a treasure chest. Each of us can choose whether to open the chest and explore the treasure, ignore the treasure or pretend that it doesn’t exist. We can even choose to resist havinganything to do with the whole idea of diversity.
As Vincentian members of conferences we now have the opportunity to explore Native American, Hispanic/Latino, European-American, AfricanAmerican, and the Asian and Pacific communities from the perspectives of the peoples themselves –– Vincentians from various cultures have shared their cultures so that we may all come to a greater understanding of those we serve and those we serve with.
As I travel around the country, I see many instances of diversity working well. I enjoyed meeting Sherry and Judy in Seattle. They work as a team, an African-American and a Caucasian woman, preparing donations to be sold in the SVdP store. The unique celebrations, which are part of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Conference in California, reflect the successful marriage of the Hispanic/Latino and English speaking members in service, worship and celebration.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that is plagued with a history of prejudice and discrimination. Even though, as Catholics, we want to be free of stereotypes, it is impossible to grow up without taking into our minds and hearts some of these stereotypes. They reside so deeply inside that most of the time we are not aware we have them. Because we don’t recognize our biases, we continue to act based on them, thus unconsciously separating ourselves from those who seem different from us. Biases we don’t recognize are, unfortunately, obvious to those who are the recipients of the stereotypes. And, if we are from a race or culture which has been stereotyped, we can see biases even where those we meet have no intention of demeaning, disrespecting or ignoring. Our interactions as members of American society thus set us up to misunderstand and to be misunderstood.
As members of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul we can reflect on our experiences to uncover any biases we have, we can be pro-active in challenging statements that exhibit prejudice and bias, and we can take a positive stance in embracing diversity however it appears in our service and our friendship.
Yours in Vincent, Louise, Frederic and Rosalie,
Session 4: What do Our Founders Say about Diversity?
Session 5: Understanding the Native American Community
Session 6: Understanding the Hispanic/Latino Community
Session 7: Understanding the European American Community
Session 8: Understanding the African American Community
Session 9: Understanding the Asian and Pacific Community
Session 10: Understanding the Migrant, The Refugee and The Travelers
Session 11: Understanding Sexual Orientation
Session 12: How to Establish Diversity in Conferences
The Ozanam News is a quarterly magazine published by the National Council of the United States to support the ministry of the Society at the Council and Conference level. The magazine is sent to more than 78,000 members in the U.S.