By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer
“We stand to become so rich in our diversity,” said Congregation of the Holy Cross (CSC) Father Joseph Corpora, featured speaker of the Latino Enrollment Institute (LEI) Booster Session May 16 at St. Mary, Kutztown.
“Celebrate culture – celebrate how people are made by God and celebrate the gifts he has given them,” Father Corpora said as he offered “Bridging Two Communities – What Does This Mean?” the second of two morning presentations.
Dr. Brooke Tesche, diocesan deputy superintendent, secondary education and special education, coordinated the daylong booster session.
“Working with the University of Notre Dame’s Father Joseph Corpora on the Latino Enrollment Institute has been a true inspiration,” said Tesche.
“Our Catholic schools embrace all of God’s children and continually strive to serve our communities with love. We are blessed to have experienced another successful workshop this week to support our Latino Enrollment Initiative moving forward.”
Those attending included representatives from 20 diocesan schools with LEI action plans, as well as an elementary school in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Md. Also attending were Diocesan Administrator Msgr. Alfred Schlert and other clergy of the Allentown Diocese; John Bakey, diocesan chancellor for education; and Dr. Philip Fromuth, diocesan superintendent for Catholic education.
LEI was co-sponsored last October at DeSales University, Center Valley by ACE (Alliance of Catholic Education) of the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind.; the Diocese of Allentown; and the Healey Education Foundation. LEI is a product of the Catholic School Advantage Campaign at Notre Dame.
Father Corpora is director of the Catholic School Advantage Campaign. He is associate director of Latino Student Ministry within the Office of Campus Ministry at Notre Dame. After graduating from Notre Dame, Father Corpora entered Moreau Seminary adjacent to Notre Dame and was ordained a priest of the Holy Cross.
A native of the Diocese of Allentown, Father Corpora is a former parishioner of St. Anthony of Padua, Easton, where his father, Dominick Vito Corpora, is still a parishioner.
The goal of LEI is to increase the educational success of Hispanic children by prioritizing access to high-quality learning in Catholic schools and expanding participation in the life of the parish community. LEI will encourage schools and parishes to increase investments in quality learning for Hispanic children, and raise awareness about the importance of quality education among Hispanic families.
The Mid-Atlantic LEI’s commitment to this initiative has been ongoing since the October 2016 conference.
The diocesan Office for Catholic Education used the event to launch an “All Are Welcome” theme that will culminate with the Diocesan Education Convention Oct. 9.
Discussing “Bridging Two Communities – What Does This Mean?” Father Corpora said when communities come close together in a parish or school, “Make them know they need each other.”
Father Corpora said the pastor has to be the bridge builder in the parish, and the principal in the school. “It can’t be the Hispanic minister in a parish or the eighth grade teacher who speaks Spanish, it has to be the pastor and principal who bring communities together. If there are more than two cultures, bring them all together.”
The bridge builder can’t be seen as being on anybody’s side, Father Corpora said. “It’s difficult – you’re often accused of liking one more than the other.
“What’s the goal? The wrong word to use is integration, which is used by the dominant culture, meaning everyone should look like the dominant culture. The people in the minority culture have to give up more of who they are.
“Be aware of words and what you’re trying to get them to buy into,” Father Corpora said, noting assimilation is not a word to use either.
“We’re trying to merge the Body of Christ – let them know they are all part of the Body of Christ.”
“We want to bring cultures together in a way that everyone brings their gift to the table,” Father Corpora said. “It’s not easy and it’s not for the fainthearted.
“God has given every person and every culture gifts.”
Father Corpora said the bridge builder needs to find ways for everyone to participate. For example, a school might hold a cupcake fundraiser to raise money for new soccer uniforms. To be inclusive of the Mexican community, ask them to bake something from their culinary culture for the fundraiser.
“The pastor and principal should be helping everybody celebrate their gifts,” he said.
Father Corpora referenced Pope Francis’ “culture of encounter,” which shares the message “I have something good to give you and you have something good to give me.”
“Even if your school doesn’t have a lot of diversity, there’s more than you think,” Father Corpora said.
He suggested bringing diverse people together in small groups, “including your staff.”
“The goal is not making everyone come out looking alike.”
Father Corpora said one suggestion is using manger scenes from different cultures in a church or school.
“We are one big family but that doesn’t mean we all have to look alike.”
“I hope we don’t see the current situation as a problem, but rather a grace from God to enrich our life, schools and parishes,” Father Corpora said. “We’re all living in this diverse world.”
The day included another presentation by Father Corpora, “The Catholic Schools That the Bishops Envision,” and a midday Mass.
The afternoon presentation, “Observation Talk,” was offered by LEI team members Jeannie Courchene and Yvonne Schwab.
There were also two breakout sessions: “Successes and Do Differents” and “Team Action Planning.” Facilitators of the breakout sessions included Father Corpora, Tesche, Kathy Link of the Healey Education Foundation, Courchene and Schwab.