President's Letter, Fr. Paul Demuth

Silos — one of our favorite sights in Wisconsin! When Bishop Robert Banks first came to the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay from Boston in 1990, he often remarked about all the barns we had and all the silos!!!!! Silos are also seen as symbols of isolation when people or ideas are kept separately from others, thus eliminating the possibility of communication and interplay.

As our population ages, assisted living homes and housing for older citizens provide opportunities for older citizens to rub shoulders with their peers and can be an antidote for isolation which sometimes results from living alone especially after a spouse dies. At the same time these facilities can also isolate our senior population from usual relationships with younger generations.

But there is another phenomenon that is also occurring. One third of grandparents are
caregivers for their coresident grandchildren. Occasioned by the divorce of parents, long
periods of absence because of work or travel, parents afflicted with drug/opioid abuse or
parents who are incarcerated, grandparents find themselves suddenly not living the “life of the
retired” but once again thrust into parenting. Some love this opportunity; others find it
burdensome. In any analysis, there are fewer silos in this evolving situation.

Perhaps what is happening is a 21st century rendition of earlier multigenerational living. We
can perhaps see this phenomenon as a example of an antidote to isolation and living in silos.

Our society features other local and national silos. We have an increasingly diverse population
in Green Bay. While the number of Latinos and African-Americans has doubled, we are still
predominantly a white population. Isolation from our more diverse population occurs for many
reasons: people of one or another population tend to live in one section of town. Language
barriers, especially of a first generation immigrant, prevent easy interpersonal communication.
We sometimes fear those who are “not like us” and therefore avoid them. Economic and
cultural differences can also isolate.

At the same time there is also a phenomenon within the younger population in our community
that thrives in an atmosphere of intercultural interaction. Many young people grow up, especially
when educated in our public school system, taking for granted the cross pollination that diversity
affords them. Kids see one another primarily as “other kids,” not as different. Many young
parents choose to live and move in circles that provide for their family multiple opportunities to
“mix and match” with our diverse population. One family recently shared with me that, while
their adopted daughter is Chinese in ethnicity, they have raised their daughter as American
through and through.

As our diverse population grows in age, culture and ethnicity in greater Green Bay, we have a
choice: to live in silos or be enriched by regular exposure to differences that our more diverse
population afford us. My hope is for the latter! What is your preference?