Religious Sisters discuss moving from being multicultural to being intercultural


A recent meeting in Manila focused on the theme of “building community in an intercultural world.”

In her opening remarks, International Union of Superiors General (UISG), President Sr. Carmen Sammut spoke about how Religious congregations are changing.

Communities in Europe, America and Australia are shrinking, with more younger members coming from Africa and Asia. Cultural differences with resultant misunderstandings often arise, she said.

At the meeting, a series of speakers addressed some of the issues that these changes are giving rise to.

Some of the key points discussed

  • Respecting differences.
  • Communicating clearly.
  • Adjusting formation programmes to create connection among novices and postulants from various cultures.
  • Extending such awareness training to older members of the community.
  • Remembering that Christianity and the Catholic Church are rooted theologically in international mission.

Fr Anthony Pernia, the dean of studies at the Divine Word Institute of Mission Studies, said the goal is to move from being multicultural — people of different cultures in the same group — to intercultural, so the various communities enrich each other.

A panel of four young sisters shared their experiences living in multicultural communities in the Philippines.

Sr Eden Panganiban, who has held several leadership positions with the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, gave an overview of the cultural changes within the congregation and an acculturation process that the Philippines North Province community uses in welcoming sisters from other countries.

Panganiban said there are four distinct parts to the process:

  • The first two steps provide basic information about the community and sensitivity training to appreciate cultural differences through formal sessions or informal exchanges.
  • A third step is guided immersion, or “learning by doing,” which helps foster a sense of belonging and addresses culture shock.
  • The final step is gaining proficiency in the local language, which facilitates adjustment and enhances social skills.


News category: Asia Pacific.

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