Inside Catholic Charities

Column: Charities director calls us to be culturally competent

by Jan Lewis

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them” (Gn 1:27).

Black, White, Hispanic or Asian. Republican or Democrat. Christian, Muslim, Jew or Atheist. Straight or Gay. Pro-Choice or Pro-Life. We are living in a country that is daily divided by the labels that we assign to one another. We are encouraged to be “culturally competent” and to embrace “diversity,” and yet the focus is always on our differences, not on our commonalities.

This issue of cultural competency is one that we have been struggling with at Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas — specifically, how can we hold on to our identity as a faith-based organization while at the same time serving people who come from many different socioeconomic, ethnic, faithbased and value-set backgrounds. We are committed to being both “Catholic” and “catholic”; which is ultimately what we believe will make us culturally competent.

The word “catholic” means universal — including or concerning all humankind. As a Catholic organization, we are called by our faith to believe that all people are created in the image of God and possess a special dignity and a source of common origin. From this common origin, we are therefore one human race that, without excluding the rich variety of persons, cultures, and peoples, sees all men and women as our brothers and sisters.

As one human race, we are tied together as one body — what causes injury or injustice to one becomes an injury or injustice to all. This principle of solidarity requires us to work across our perceived differences to seek that which is mutually good and beneficial.

The word “charity” means love. We believe that love is a universal value that crosses all cultures. Therefore, in becoming an organization that is culturally competent, proficient and inclusive, we will seek to serve others — and each other — in a manner that reflects the human dignity of the person in front of us by embracing them with unconditional love.

This love, uniquely revealed and modeled by Jesus Christ, is manifested through actions that are patient, kind, faithfilled, joyful, self-controlled and grounded in truth. We will not respond with actions or behaviors that are jealous, arrogant, rude, stubborn, irritable or resentful. We will bear with our brothers and sisters, enduring with them their trials and striving to inspire in them hope for tomorrow.

In a world that is intent on focusing on the differences, we can be both countercultural and culturally competent by focusing on the things that unite us. We are all one. There is no “us” and “them.” If we want to be culturally competent, we need to put aside judgment and simply love one another.

About the author

Ken Williams

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