Editor’s note: This article was written before the Archdiocese of Chicago suspended public liturgies and the schools it operates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. When parishes merge through the Renew My Church process, often that means very different groups of people with different cultural backgrounds and experiences coming together under one roof for the first time as a parish. In an effort to help that process go more smoothly and to extend hospitality between ethnic groups, the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Polish Council hosted two workshops to help parishes better understand Polish Catholics. “The inspiration came from Renew My Church, especially the idea that we all need to extend hospitality to one another,” said Alicja Pozywio, an evangelization coordinator in the Office for Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship and a member of the Polish Council. “Hospitality is a huge part of the ‘building a new reality’ phase. We had this idea that in order to extend hospitality that we need to know each other.” A natural fear can arise when someone encounters people from a different culture who have different practices and who may do things they don’t understand, especially around cultural customs. Such understanding can help build bridges through Renew My Church and a build greater cultural sensitivity, Pozywio said. “We said, ‘Well, why don’t we explain ourselves? Why don’t we tell people who we are to give people the chance to know us a little bit?’” she added. The workshop, “Polish Catholicism and the Polish Culture: Customs, Language and Values,” was held Feb. 18 at St. Thomas Becket Parish in Mount Prospect and Feb. 22 at St. Monica Parish, 5136 N. Nottingham Ave. Staff from the John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin, Poland, presented on topics such as history, language, politeness or behavior, the role of the Catholic Church in Polish history and more. Participants also sampled Polish food during breakfast and lunch. Communication in a parish community can be a challenge and it can become more challenging when there are various cultures involved and language differences. “Knowing each other, why we act the way we do, why we do things a certain way, what are the big challenges in our ethnic group, we thought would be a huge help in the Renew My Church process,” Pozywio said. The most popular parts of this workshop were Polish history and also “politeness” — what Polish people do and don’t do and why, including, for example, what Poles do when at the end of a flight when the plane lands safely or how they greet each other upon entering a home. Pozywio, a native of Poland and a U.S. citizen, said one thing she would like people to know about the Polish people is that showing emotion is part of their Slavic nature. “Being emotional is part of the Polish culture and part of who we are and part of how we communicate,” she said. “Sometimes when somebody with this type of attitude comes to somebody who didn’t have prior experience with a Polish person, this might be a challenge. It could be read as anger or frustration and not just as the person being emotional.” However, it is all rooted in good intentions, she said. Following the workshops, attendees said that they would like to see similar workshops about other ethnic communities and groups in the Archdiocese of Chicago as part of the Renew My Church process.