New partnerships are forming between suburban and urban Catholic parishes based around common social ministry and dialogue about racial prejudice and misunderstanding, according to the Catholic magazine Salt of the Earth (March/April).
These parishes often view “working together for a common good is one way to begin a process of tearing down prejudices like these while creating a foundation for constructive interaction across long-standing racial and economic barriers,” writes Bob Zyskowski. The formula for these partnerships often involve meeting together for prayer, discussing and seeking to apply Catholic social teachings to local issues; and direct contact between people of different cultures and social classes.
In Ohio, a parish in suburban Kirtland has formed a parternship with an inner-city Cleveland parish, and together they created a job-placement office. The parishes also hold retreats and missions together and exchange leaders.
The experience and success that inner city poorer parishes have in community-based organizing is often attractive to suburban parishes that are also beginning to experience such similar problems as crime and poverty. In St. Paul and Minneapolis, such partnerships have developed into a larger, more powerful interfaith Action Organization that is being formed by the merger of the inner-city and suburban coalitions. Most of the inner-city and suburban parishioners interviewed see the dialogue and communication between the two regions as the most important byproduct of the partnerships.
In New Orleans, the parish partnership program organized a series of dialogues on race. During the O.J. Simpson acquittal, such a forum served as “one of the few places where blacks and whites could discuss the matter freely,” according to Zyskowski.
(Salt of the Earth, 205 W. Monroe St., Chicago, IL 60606)