Engaging Our Diversity

Interculturality and Consecrated Life Today

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Maria Cimperman, Roger P. Schroeder
  • Maryknoll, NY: 
    Orbis Books
    , January
     256 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Engaging Our Diversity: Interculturality and Consecrated Life Today is a collection of essays that arose, as editors Maria Cimperman, RSCJ, and Roger P. Schroeder, SVD, explain, out of a three-year program (2017 to 2020) at the Center for the Study of Consecrated Life at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. The program included collaborative teams from women’s and men’s congregations that worked toward “developing intercultural projects for their own religious communities and others” (vii). The essays are written by some of the plenary and breakout presenters and provide rich research and reflections for anyone hoping to broaden their considerations around an appreciation for interculturality and how to live interculturally.

The content is divided into three parts that pertain to interculturality: mapping the opportunities and challenges, laying the foundations, and practical aspects, including awareness of interculturality, cultural frameworks and cases, race and gender, culture and personality, leadership, formation, a particular international lay movement (Focolare), and pilgrimage. The organization of the volume provides a sense of unity across the contributions. The essays in part 2 and most of those in part 3 have a helpful summary/conclusion section at the end of the contribution.

After a brief introduction, the book begins with an essay by one of the editors, which sets the tone and context for the volume, emphasizing the universality of the topics discussed as well as the specific focus of the volume on religious life. As Cimperman writes, “With the rise of extreme nationalism and decreasing acceptance of the ‘other,’ one we perceive to be not like ‘us,’ our way of being a human community is in peril” (3). Part of the answer is interculturality, defined as “building and maintaining mutually enriching and challenging relationships among all peoples” (4). Religious life has a role to play in this, as the impact of “our efforts toward becoming intercultural communities” will be felt everywhere (3).

While the main audience for the volume is Catholics in consecrated life—and there are often strong US themes, such as the statement that “interculturality is a call to the United States of America today, for one example, asking us to see that the diversity of cultures, ethnicities, indigenous peoples, generations, and genders build up and strengthen this nation” (5)—much of the material can be applied to a variety of social and religious structures. Appreciation of diversity is framed in terms of opposing “xenophobia, religious extremism,” and similar positions while lifting up the “gifts and possibilities of all persons” (5). The discussions throughout the volume are often in religious language, using terms such as “vocation,” “discernment,” “religious imagination,” and “reign of God.”

This collection of essays could be useful for a variety of audiences. People at all stages of consecrated life—from formation to those who have been vowed for many years—could find inspiring, meaningful reflections and practical considerations for enriching their own congregations. Scholars of religion, especially ecclesiologists, at the graduate level and beyond would likely discover new emphases on and language about topics that have long been under discussion. Most beneficially to this reviewer, the commitment to our shared world—and the collaborative approach to care for it, evidenced concretely by this cooperative volume and, less tangibly, in the content throughout—is inspiring and can be a source for ongoing intellectual and spiritual reflection.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Mary Beth Yount is Associate Professor of Theological Studies at Neumann University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Date of Review: 
April 7, 2021
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Maria Cimperman, RSCJ, is director of the Center for the Study of Consecrated Life and associate professor of theological ethics at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago. She is author of Social Analysis for the 21st Century: How Faith Becomes Action and Religious Life for Our World (both Orbis).

Roger P. Schroeder, SVD, is Louis J. Luzbetak, SVD Professor of Mission and Culture and professor of intercultural studies and ministry at CTU. He is co-author (with Stephen Bevans) of Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today and Prophetic Dialogue: Reflections on Christian Mission for Today (both Orbis).



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