Intercultural Competencies

In April, 2017, the Association of Theological Schools awarded Holy Apostles College & Seminary an Innovations Grant that enabled the school to establish an intercultural competencies initiative as a means by which to develop a better understanding among the members of its community of the relationship they have toward one another as the student population continues to increase in its cultural diversity through the global expansion of its programming. The work on the grant took place in the 2017-2018 academic year with the fall term devoted to a community-wide Building Intercultural Competencies for Ministers workshop and the spring term devoted to the development of a webinar series, a community-specific workbook, and a template adaptable for use by all other Catholic seminaries and theological schools pursuing similar initiatives.

Beginning on September 6, 2017, the students on campus at Holy Apostles College & Seminary participated in five Wednesday evening sessions led by Dr. Sebastian Mahfood, OP, concerning each of the five modules of the Building Intercultural Competencies for Ministers workshop located online at The sessions were broadcast live via Google Hangouts on Air and stored on the Holy Apostles YouTube channel and are preserved here below.

Module 1

Frame Issues of Diversity Theologically in Terms of the Church’s Identity and Mission to Evangelize

Module 2

Seek an Understanding of Culture and How It Works

Module 3

Develop Intercultural Communication Skills in Pastoral Settings

Module 4

Expand Knowledge of the Obstacles That Impede Effective Intercultural Relations

Module 5

Foster Ecclesial Integration Rather Than Assimilation in Church Settings with a Spirituality of Hospitality, Reconciliation, and Mission

On Friday, September 8, 2017, the faculty and staff of Holy Apostles College & Seminary attended an all-day workshop developed by the professional training team of Mary Urbanek-Mueller and Giovanni Madriz from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, MO. The materials presented were based on the Building Intercultural Competencies for Ministers workshop developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Cultural Diversity available online at

On September 25, 2017, and October 3, 2017, members of the Board of Directors at Holy Apostles College & Seminary participated in two training sessions held respectively in separate locations at the House of the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles in Cromwell, CT, and Carbone’s Ristorante in Hartford, CT. Outcomes included a resolution by the Very Rev. Luis Luna-Barrera, MSA, General Animator of the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles, to extend the training provided within the USCCB Intercultural Competencies materials to all Missionaries of the Holy Apostles and awareness of the need for intercultural competencies training within the entire community as Holy Apostles continues to grow in its globalization initiative to evangelize to all peoples as it cultivates Catholic leaders for the purpose of evangelization.

Beginning on October 16, 2017, the faculty and students within the online community of Holy Apostles College & Seminary were enrolled in a five-week workshop on the Populi Learning Management System taught by Dr. Cynthia Toolin-Wilson and facilitated by graduate student Neil Han.

View the syllabus for the workshop here.

Listen below to five episodes of a talk-show entitled “The Lost Voice Programme” of WCAT Radio.
Jonathan Stute and Jacob Nelson dedicated five of their shows to each of the USCCB Intercultural Competencies modules.

The Lost Voice Programme – Intercultural Competencies Module 1

The Lost Voice Programme Intercultural Competencies – Module 2

The Lost Voice Programme Intercultural Competencies – Module 3

The Lost Voice Programme Intercultural Competencies – Module 4

The Lost Voice Programme Intercultural Competencies – Module 5

Module 1: Frame Issues of Diversity Theologically in Terms of the Church’s Identity and Mission to Evangelize


Aquinas Institute of Theology Fall 2015 Seminar – Fr. Allen Deck, SJ, the Creator of the USCCB Intercultural Competencies Modules

Resource Materials mentioned in the Readings:


Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers from the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church

Many Families, One Church 


How do you see the four pillars of evangelization playing out in your own ministry?

  1. Conversion: a personal encounter with Jesus Christ
  2. The evangelization of cultures: the encounter between a people’s rituals, symbols, and myths (narratives) and the Gospel, leading to the transformation of culture (inculturation)
  3. Liberation: the transformation of social, economic, and political orders in light of gospel values of life and human dignity
  4. Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue: work to bring about the unity of all peoples in pursuit of Jesus’ mandate


Choose one of the passages below. How do you see it relating to evangelization today? Give an example.


Explain the significance  to you of the italicized part of this quote below.

  • “Culture is the particular way in which a human group interprets life and relates with nature, God, the world, and other peoples. Culture is not accidental, but an integral part of human life. Culture is lived and expressed through traditions, languages, relationships, food, music, and religious expressions. It embraces the totality of life of the group and the life of each individual who belongs to it; therefore, all human beings relate and respond to God and express this faith from and within their culture.” – Principles for Inculturation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Department of Education, USCCB


The five parameters of interacting with other cultures are listed in the module as follows. Choose one and describe a situation you experienced in your own pastoral setting that can be explained by the parameter. How did you handle the situation then? How would you handle it now that you’ve been provided a rationale for its occurrence? Use the discussion board on the right.

  • Parameter 1: Collectivism versus Individualism
  • Parameter 2: Hierarchy versus Equality
  • Parameter 3: Low Tolerance of Ambiguity versus High Tolerance of Ambiguity
  • Parameter 4: A Masculine versus a Feminine Understanding of Gender Roles
  • Parameter 5: Lived-Experience versus Abstract Time Orientation

Module 3: Develop Intercultural Communication Skills in Pastoral Settings

The Social Magisterium talks a great deal about the relationship between individualist societies and collectivist societies in terms of their being extremes of the political/economic continuum. We can see this in the documents listed here below. Persons who grow up in the cultures fostered by these extremes necessarily form a cultural worldview based on them. If you choose to read these documents in light of intercultural competencies, consider how we might transform both individualist and collectivist cultures through Catholic culture and understand how Catholic culture is itself affected by its being expressed through either one or the other of these cultures or by the convergence of both backgrounds within a single parish.


Many Faces in God’s House (parts 1-3)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Muchos Rostros en la Casa de Dios (partes 1-3)

Partes 1

Partes 2

Partes 3


    • Looking at the chart explaining some differences between collectivist and individualist cultures, discuss the implications of these differences for what you saw in the videos “Many Faces in God’s House.”


  • Watch the interview below entitled “Stella Ting-Toomey on Face-Negotiation Theory”and the video entitled, “The Importance of ‘Face’ in China – Rupert Munton – ClarkMorgan Insights.” We have here two nuances on the definition of “face” as communication identity, role and reputation. How do these definitions help you understand what’s going on in your parish among collectivist cultures? How do they help you problematize an individualistic culture?

“Stella Ting-Toomey on Face-Negotiation Theory”

“The Importance of ‘Face’ in China – Rupert Munton – ClarkMorgan Insights”

Ecclesial Planning Preparation:

In Module 5, you’ll be asked to gather the leaders in your ecclesial setting and come up with a plan for the integration of the five principles we’ll discuss in that module. You can prepare for that with a short exercise now.

  • Create and post for discussion a short presentation about your own ministerial setting and the opportunities within it for demonstrating the cultivation of the competencies outlined so far within this course.

Module 4: Expand Knowledge of the Obstacles That Impede Effective Intercultural Relations

  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
    “I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me. Nor is my invisibility exactly a matter of a bio-chemical accident to my epidermis. That invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come in contact. A matter of the construction of their inner eyes, those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality. I am not complaining, nor am I protesting either. It is sometimes advantageous to be unseen, although it is most often rather wearing on the nerves. Then too, you’re constantly being bumped against by those of poor vision. Or again, you often doubt if you really exist. You wonder whether you aren’t simply a phantom in other people’s minds. Say, a figure in a nightmare which the sleeper tries with all his strength to destroy. It’s when you feel like this that, out of resentment, you begin to bump people back. And, let me confess, you feel that way most of the time. You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, that you’re a part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognize you. And, alas, it’s seldom successful.”


“Scenes from a Parish” (trailer)

The New Girl


  • In light of Acts 2:1-12 and Galatians 2:11-21, discuss this statement: “The plurality of racial groups in U.S. society will require a pluricultural lens to build the bridges of interculturality.”


  • Go to and find a clip from a popular film that deals with prejudice or racism. Post the link and discuss in light of the message provided in this module.

Module 5: Foster Ecclesial Integration Rather Than Assimilation in Church Settings with a Spirituality of Hospitality, Reconciliation, and Mission


  • Reconciled through Christ: On Reconciliation and Greater Collaboration Between Hispanic American Catholics and African American Catholics
    English Version
    Spanish Version


Black Catholics More Engaged in Church


The foundational stages in the larger process of ecclesial integration are as follows. Discuss what they mean in terms of your own parish context. How are they working out? What more needs to be done?

Catholic Identity

  • Movement 1: Reach Out and Meet People Where They Are
  • Movement 2: Demonstrate Hospitality and Make People Feel at Home
  • Movement 3: Organize by Developing Ministries and Ministers


  • Movement 4: Build Relationships across Cultures and Ministries
  • Movement 5: Champion Leadership Development and Formation
  • Movement 6: Open Wide the Doors to the Decision-Making Process


  • Movement 7: Strengthen a Sense of Ownership
  • Movement 8: Sow and Reap Full Ownership and Stewardship
  • Movement 9: Achieve Full Commitment to the Mission of the Parish


The Five Principles for Achieving Ecclesial Integration and Inclusion are as follows. In conversation with the leaders in your parish among whom may already be included persons from different cultural backgrounds, develop a plan to demonstrate how these principles can be applied within your ecclesial setting.

  1. Articulate a vision of ministry based on ecclesial integration and inclusion.
  2. Foster the inculturation of the Gospel in all cultures.
  3. Plan with the people, not for the people.
  4. Broaden your understanding of ministry groups, programs, and structures, and cast a bigger net.
  5. Empower people from different cultures and ethnicities into leadership positions.

Join us on the following dates beginning January 19, 2018, for a series of webinars on intercultural competencies to be held over the course of the spring of 2018.

Three ways to participate:

January 19, 2018


Title: Missionary Priests and Seminarians in the United States: Graces and Challenges

Presenter: Dr. Sebastian Mahfood, OP, Vice-President of External Affairs at Holy Apostles College & Seminary, Cromwell, CT

Description: International priests have served the Roman Catholic Church in the United States since its inception. With congregations consisting largely of immigrants or Spanish and French speaking Catholics absorbed by the expansion of US territory, it was only natural that the clergy reflected the remarkable mixture of ethnicities in the Church. New communities lacked the ‘home-grown’ vocations of more established communities, and the nascent Church needed to recruit or welcome priests and religious from other countries and cultures. This presentation is part of the Intercultural Competencies work in which Holy Apostles has been involved this academic year.

Recorded and aired on WCAT Radio on Friday, January 19, 2018.

​Dr. Mahfood earned his PhD in Literature at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, MO, and served as the Associate Director of the Parresia Project, now hosted out of the Sacred Heart Institute in Huntington, NY. He and the project’s director, Msgr. Richard Henning, are releasing a book on this subject entitled Missionary Priests in the Homeland: Our Call to Receive, which will be available through En Route Books and Media in early February, 2018. He is Vice-President of External Affairs and Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Holy Apostles College & Seminary. He is the founder and CEO of En Route Books and Media and WCAT Radio.

Recommended Reading: 

Recommended Viewing from the USCCB Website:

January 26, 2018

​Title: “Accessibility Compliance in Distributed Learning: A Canadian Case Study”

Presenter: Larry Hopperton of the Faith-Based Online Learning Directors (FOLD)

Description: The issue of accessibility in online learning has been waiting for attention. Until recently, however, the urgency for action has been largely absent or deferred. Intentions were good, but few formal implementation deadlines demanded immediate action. The passage of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005 led to the 2008 b adoption of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The Ontario Government has set a time limit of 1 January 2021 for compliance with this standard. This presentation will consider the changing concept of disability and accessibility in online learning. It will then provide a case study of Tyndale University College Seminary in Ontario, Canada, as it prepares to implement accessibility requirements for the 2021 deadline. Recorded and aired on WCAT Radio on Friday, January 26, 2018. The audio below plays the entire webinar with the Q/A session at the end. The YouTube video provides a subtitled, visual background to the 30-minute presentation embedded within the audio.

Some resources from Ben Watson of the Faith-Based Online Learning Directors: 

Screen Readers:

  • JAWS for Windows and NVDA for Windows
  • VoiceOver for both the iPhone and iPad.

Reading Apps (all for the iPhone and iPad)

  • Voice Dream Reader
  • Kindle
  • IBooks
  • Nook
  • Easy Reader
  • Pocket
  • Bard Mobile. This is the application from the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in the US. BARD stands for Braille and Audio Reading Download. Both audio and braille books can be accessed on the app
  • For reading the classics LibriVox or Audio Books Headquarters both work well.
  • Overdrive, an app used by libraries across the country.
  • App from Learning Ally. They have 75,000 mostly textbooks that have been recorded for blind and people with other learning disabilities that listening to a book can help.
  • Audible should be mentioned, very accessible in both Windows and IOS.
  • Apple’s news app for news and their podcast app for listening to podcasts.


  • MicroSoft Office is very accessible.
  • Word processing app called Voice Dream Writer.
  • For blogging, Byword.


  • Everybody’s favorite Google app works well in both Windows and IOS and the Wikipedia app works well in IOS.

Dr. Lawrence Hopperton is the Director of Distributed Learning at Tyndale University College and Seminary. He was formerly the Director of Research for the Canadian TeleLearning National Centre of Excellence and Senior Instructional Designer for the Canadian Centre of Excellence for Refugee and Immigrant Studies.

February 16, 2018
“Looking through a new lens: What happens when we approach disability from a social perspective”

Presenter: Antaya Lee, Disability Student Services (DSS) Coordinator, Mitchell College, New London, CT

DSS Office Statement: “In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (2008) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Disability Student Services is committed to ensuring that no qualified student, on the basis of his/her disability, will be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subject to discrimination under any College program or activity. Disability Student Services determines eligibility, approves and coordinates services, auxiliary aids, and academic accommodations to qualified students with disabilities. Disability Student Services is committed to equal accessibility and supports students with disabilities in advocating and engaging in the campus learning and living community to maximize their ability to succeed.” (For more about what Antaya’s office does, see

Description: Too often in our world we look at disability as “other,” something needing to be fixed. But what happens when we look through a different lens and approach disability from a social perspective? Join us to learn more about cultural competencies surrounding disability and how small shifts in perspective can make a big impact to those with disabilities, both visible and invisible.

Antaya Lee is the Disability Access Coordinator at Mitchell College in New London, Connecticut. She earned her undergraduate degrees from Eastern Connecticut State University in Elementary Education and History & Social Sciences. After graduation, she went on to teach at the elementary school level before heading back to school to earn a graduate degree. In 2013, Antaya earned her Master of Science in Counseling with a focus in Student Development in Higher Education. Disability advocacy and access is both a personal and professional passion, and in addition to her position at the College, Antaya also serves as a member of the Connecticut Tech Act Project Advisory Board. Antaya lives in Southeast Connecticut with her husband.

April 5, 2018 at 4:00 pm Eastern / 3:00 pm Central

Title: Dignity in Difference: The challenges of race and gender in light of human dignity

Presenter: MT Dávila, 
Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Andover-Newton Theological School

Description: Catholicism promotes full human dignity inclusive of differences in race, ethnicity, gender, age, and religion. This webcast explores how human dignity, the central concept in Catholic social teaching, helps us navigate conflicts arising from difference, as well as recognize tensions yet unresolved. (Aired and recorded on April 5, 2018)

Some resources:

About the Presenter: MT Dávila is a lay woman in the Roman Catholic tradition. She completed her doctorate at Boston College with a dissertation titled A Liberation Ethic for the One Third World: The Preferential Option for the Poor and Challenges to Middle-Class Christianity in the United States. Her main interests are the intersections of class identity formation and Christian ethics in the U.S. context. Her research looks for the intersection of these issues with respect to the relationship of class and militarism, class and immigration, and class and activism. Professor Dávila lives in Malden with her family, her husband Rob and four children. She is a member of St. Joseph’s Church, a Roman Catholic parish in Malden.

April 19, 2018, at 5:00 pm Eastern / 4:00 pm Central

Title: “Hispanic Ministry in the U.S. Catholic Church”

Presenter: Dr. F. Javier Orozco, OFS, PhD, Executive Director, Intercultural and Interreligious Affairs, Archdiocese of St. Louis

Description: The presentation will be an introduction to the reality and practice of Hispanic ministry in the US Catholic Church. It will explore and highlight key demographics, methodology, theological-pastoral themes, and best-practices.

About the Presenter: Dr. Orozco is a Catholic theologian, educator and leader. As the Executive Director of Intercultural and Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, he oversees the work of the Office of Hispanic Ministry and the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.  His professional experience includes interreligious and ecumenical leadership, higher education, and teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in theology and ministry.  His presentations, workshops and writings cover topics in spirituality, religious pluralism, intercultural ministry, and Catholic social teaching.  Dr. Orozco is a Christian Leadership Initiative Fellow with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. He and his wife, Theresa, live in the Tower Grove East neighborhood of the City of St. Louis, MO.