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Monday, 11 May 2015 12:22

Workshops focus on interculturality in lives and ministry

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Fr Tim Norton svd150It is important to understand the difference between multicultural and intercultural, says former Australian Provincial of the Divine Word Missionaries, Fr Tim Norton svd, who returned to Australia recently to lead a series of workshops on interculturality.

Former Australian Provincial, Fr Tim Norton svd, returned to Australia recently to lead a series of workshops on interculturality.

Fr Tim, who is now based at the SVD retreat house at Nemi, outside Rome, has been in Indonesia for the past three months, learning the Indonesian language. While in ‘the neighbourhood’, he returned to Australia to share his knowledge and experience on intercultural living and ministry.

He says it’s important to understand the difference between multicultural and intercultural.

“Multicultural is just the presence of various cultures, intercultural is this dynamic change between cultures,” he says.

“At the last SVD General Chapter, interculturality was identified as a major characteristic of who we are.

“Part of the commitment of the Generalate was to provide a resource around interculturality, both ad intra, within our own communities, and ad extra, within our ministries. The idea of that resource is that we try to become both more conscious of it and also better at it.”

An ad hoc committee was formed, and it proposed to the Generalate that there be a meeting of people who could be trained in the area of interculturality. That meeting was held in January, at Nemi, and was facilitated by Fr Tim.

The program focused on storytelling as a way of helping people to move from an academic understanding of interculturality to a more personal appreciation of how it is present in their own lives and ministry.

“To get people to think about interculturality academically is ok, but to get them to think about the stories they have themselves around intercultural moments or things that have occurred is becoming quite useful,” he says.

Fr Tim brought many of the key elements of the Nemi meeting to Australia to present as workshops, both for SVDs in Alice Springs, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, and also for the Blessed Sacrament communities in Sydney and Melbourne. Members of other religious congregations and lay people also joined in some of the workshops.

“In the last 40 years, we’ve come to know a whole lot more about personality, but we probably don’t know so much about culture,” he says. "And so, in the last 20 years, there’s been more work done and so there’s just more information. It’s becoming a lot more scientific and that’s really useful.”

Fr Tim says he is enjoying his new ministry as Director of Programs at Nemi, a role which includes organising and facilitating retreat and renewal programs for SVDs from around the world, as well as providing presentations on professional standards, interculturality and inter-gender relationships.

“It’s quite satisfying,” he says. “You hope the guys go away a little more relaxed, refreshed and informed, and with a few more tools to bring about the reign of God in their various places of ministry.”

This article was first published in the April 2015 edition of In The Word, the monthly e-newsletter of the Australian Province of the Divine Word Missionaries.