At the end of September, representatives of Catholic indigenous organizations met in Washington with members of the bishops' conferences of the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. As later explained by the USCCBThe meeting was an opportunity for "dialogue, learning and fraternization for those who work with indigenous communities in the Catholic Church.
The goal of these conversations was to seek engagement by the Church with Native communities. The chairman of the USCCB's Native American Affairs Subcommittee, Bishop Chad Zielinski, said in a statement about the meeting that "some of the issues we addressed dealt with history that can be difficult and painful to discuss, but we must be willing to confront these issues so that we can also bring real and honest dialogue that leads to healing, and greater awareness so that history does not repeat itself."
Throughout the days of work, topics such as Catholic identity in the indigenous setting, evangelization, education, racism and poverty were discussed. All of this is part of a larger effort by the U.S. bishops' conference to design a new pastoral framework for ministry to indigenous people. The framework will be voted on during the session. plenary of next November.
Indigenous communities in the United States
According to data provided by the USCCB, there are more than 340 parishes in the United States that serve predominantly Native American congregations. Most of the people serving these congregations are members of religious orders, although there is a higher percentage of Native Americans who are lay ministers or deacons.
Despite this, there is still much to be done in the U.S. Church to achieve effective Native American ministry. Of all the archdioceses and dioceses in the country, only 30 % of them have an office or program specifically for Native Americans. However, to put this in perspective, it is important to note that Native Americans make up approximately 3.5 % of the U.S. Catholic population, and only 20 % of Native Americans consider themselves Catholic.
Many resources and studies about Native Americans in the United States can be found on the Episcopal Conference website. These include a detailed history of the Church's mission to Native Americans, activities to do with families, and statistics that help to better understand the situation.