(This article originally appeared in the spring/Summer Issue of the TAU-USA #103)

by Willie Guadalupe, OFS

I had been toying with the idea of writing an article focusing on multiculturalism and diversity so that, as a Franciscan family, we can better understand the differences and commonalities of these two concepts. As I was searching the Internet, I found a June 2016 article on the DifferenceBetween.com website that helped define and explain these two terms. My ultimate goal is to help others better understand and embrace the different ethnic cultures within our fraternities. The following definitions are taken from that website article (see footnote).

Diversity: Diversity refers to the differences that exist among individuals, such as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, and ethnicity.

Multiculturalism: Multiculturalism is when multiple cultural traditions are not only accepted in the society but also promoted.

Multiculturalism is the key to achieving a high degree of cultural diversity. Diversity occurs when people of different races, nationalities, religions, ethnicities, and philosophies come together to form a community. A truly diverse society is one that recognizes and values the cultural differences in its people.[1]  

Both diversity and multiculturalism have great relevance to our lives today. Diversity is a fact, a growing reality, in the United States and in our Order. Social media, immigration, and an increasingly global economy are bringing together people with different languages, races, and cultures. This encounter of diversity brings us challenges, but also great opportunities. The Secular Franciscan Order is being blessed with diverse multicultural fraternities and members. This means we need to overcome our fears, anxiety, and insecurities when dealing with those who are different from ourselves. Not only do we need to be the bridge, but we also need to break down the barriers that create walls.

As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.

A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ. OFS Rule Art.

Francis faced some of these same issues head on. Two Franciscan stories that resonate with me are the encounters of Francis and the Sultan and Francis and the Leper. Both were encounters with “the other.” Both experiences resulted in conversion of heart, due to Francis’s trust in the Lord. As Franciscans, we are called to be the face of God to others as Francis was.

Within our fraternities we have done a lot, but there is still much more to be done. Recently, as I was preparing to conduct a workshop for our Spanish speaking fraternities, I decided to check their entries in the database for any updates or changes. I was disappointed to find many discrepancies, which indicated to me that these fraternities are not being supported enough by their Regions. I have heard from several ministers of Spanish-speaking fraternities that they feel abandoned and isolated. My dear brothers and sisters, this should not be. I encourage each Region, if you have not done so already, to appoint a Multicultural and Diversity Commission Team so that any issues with these fraternities are brought to the attention of the Regional Council. The Council can then contact the fraternity to ensure that their needs are being met. As Secular Franciscans we have committed ourselves to accompany and take care of one another on our journey to the Father.

[1] https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-diversity-and-multiculturalism/