Close to Jesus’ heart, unity was among his final prayer intentions in the Garden of Gethsemane, before his Paschal Mystery. Gathered with his apostles, Jesus prayed, “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (Jn 17:20-21).
For Sandra (Sandy) Moss, Cultural Diversity Director at Christ the King Catholic School, this prayer of Jesus is a personal mission.
Having grown up in a small town in Texas, Moss shared, “As early as I remember, there were always people of many cultures in my life, as well as in the Catholic Church. Children of all nationalities were at the playground. White children of different nationalities, Hispanic, Native American, etc., and me. There was no separation of races. On Sunday, we went to Mass and the congregation was the same and so was the student body.”
That all changed when the Moss family moved to the big city after Sandy’s dad was deployed with the Air Force. “That was so different,” Moss remembered. “People lived in separate sections of the city; the children went to school with other children just like them only. I was in a world I did not understand. I did not like it.”
Rather than grow discouraged or despondent, Moss prayed that “Jesus would draw me back to all his people, not just Black people but all people. My Church and family placed this belief in my heart. I prayed throughout my life we would become one.”
Little did she know that this very prayer, so similar to Jesus’ own in the Gospel of John, would become reality decades later.
Her role as the Cultural Diversity Director at Christ the King Catholic School is a unique position in the Archdiocese of Denver, and in it, Moss lives this mission of unity every day, even in a world so broken by division.
Explaining her role at Christ the King, Moss said, “As the Cultural Diversity Director, my goals are to provide and promote intercultural events to the student body and members of the Catholic Community, so they can experience, expand, and explore their understanding of cultural influences. Additionally, I teach the students throughout the academic school year about individuals past and present who contribute to the rich tapestry of diversity in this world similar to the diversity of the Catholic Church family in their own cultures.”
Highlighting cultures from all over the world, Moss encourages her students and community to embrace the little-c catholicity (universality) of the church and to come to know each other in their uniqueness. In fact, in the last year, her program included “an exploration into the cultures of Slovakia, Russia, Poland, Ireland, Germany, Japan, and China,” as well as timely programming for Black Catholic History Month, Hispanic History Month, and Black History Month. All of Moss’ programing “included informative presentations from members of those cultures, food samplings, arts, and music.”
Because of her unique program and her passion for cultural diversity and unity, Moss and her students were invited to attend the “Lift Every Voice” concert, a collaboration between the Colorado Symphony, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Fiesta Colorado Dance Company and spoken word poet Frankie Le’Troy.
“Cultural Diversity is the lens through which we evaluate everything around us,” Moss shared. “We evaluate what is proper or improper as well as normal or abnormal through our culture. Cultural diversity supports the idea that every person can make a unique and positive contribution to the larger society because of, rather than despite, his or her differences. Imagine a place where diversity is recognized and respected, various cultural ideas are acknowledged and valued, contributions from all groups are encouraged, and people are empowered to achieve their full potential!”
Day by day, program by program, Moss works “so that they may all be one,” as Jesus prayed, and highlights the importance of abiding in relationship with each other – and with God – while confounding the world through a radical unity in the midst of each’s own uniqueness and diversity.
For Moss, though, this effort stems from her own childhood prayer to be drawn near to all of Jesus’ people, and so she continues to plan future encounters with other cultures.
“The Cultural Diversity Program has exposed the students of Christ the King and the community to the beauty of diversity and has proven to be a positive experience,” Moss concluded. “I am excited for the celebrations I have planned for the future through this program!”