Our Origin & Mission
As a Church, as American citizens, and as members of a global community, we need a story that belongs to all of us regardless of our racial, ethnic, or cultural background. Our stories tell us who we are; our sense of identity rises in part out of the stories we tell about ourselves. We need a story in which we can see ourselves, in which we can live and move and have our being. We need a story that speaks the truth: not just my truth or your truth, your story or my story, but one that tells the whole story.
To tell this story is to uncover the wounds, resolve, obstacles, victories, struggles, and triumphs of human history. To listen to this story is to share in the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of humankind in every place and time. When we find glimpses of this story and make it our own, it transforms us and makes us more fully human.
Many Parts Incorporated seeks to tell this story, a story that starts with human beings created in God's image and likeness and flowing into a Church where Christ holds all our stories together in his wounded and merciful heart. We begin where we are: the Twin Cities of Minnesota. We look for stories that challenge, uplift, and transform. We reach for the margins, where stories exist that we haven't heard.
In our founding document, we propose the following mission goals to share the stories we find.
To educate Christians, beginning with Roman Catholics, and the broader Minnesota community about the faith and religious experiences of minority Christians, both in the present and from the past.
To educate Roman Catholics and others about the Second Vatican Council’s distinction between faith and culture in order to understand, appreciate, and explore differences of cultural practice and expression within Catholicism and Christianity, both locally and globally.
To facilitate more compassionate listening and faith-filled action across cultural, religious, ethnic, and political lines of difference.
To build up the Body of Christ and promote our faith.
Following the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent social unrest in 2020, every American church community had questions and worries. At Nativity of Mary Catholic Church in Bloomington, MN, the founders of Many Parts started an initiative to address those questions and worries. Dr. Benjamin Heidgerken, a parishioner at Nativity of Mary, had been teaching American religious history at the St. Paul Seminary since 2017. He proposed to the parish priest, Fr. Nathan LaLiberte, an art project that would illustrate the beautiful unity and cultural diversity of Catholicism and simulaneously work to heal racial divides in the local community.
Fr. Nathan contacted an artist in the parish, Erin Wee, to produce modern portrayals of saints from the Catholic tradition. Ben selected six saints, a blessed, and a venerable using a number of criteria: they lived at or after the time of European colonial expansion; they experienced cultural misunderstanding or conflict in their lives; and they demonstrated a devotion to the parish's namesake, Mary, Mother of Jesus.
What makes these saints unique is as important as what unites them. Some are well-known; others less so. They are men and women; they died young and old. They reflect various stages of the path to sainthood (venerable, blessed, and canonized saint); they come from all around the world. They represented and engaged with unique cultures and sought to bring healing to their societies.
Erin produced the eight original illustrations for what we call the "Cloud of Witnesses" project. As a busy mother of young children, Erin chose to paint the images digitally, using a method that emulates oil and acrylic painting technique. She incorporated symbols of their devotion to Mary and of their ministry to heal cultural and religious divides. The printed and framed original images also include a hand-painted gold halo and lettering.
Since many of the saints in the collection lived before photographic technologies, Fr. Nathan drew on the diversity of Nativity of Mary's own congregation by asking parishioners with ethnic backgrounds similar to the saints to stand as reference models for Erin's work. This selection process serves to remind the members of the parish of their own call to imitate the saints just as they imitated Christ (1 Cor 11:1). Ben produced YouTube videos for each saint that include catechetical topics related to history and diversity in the Catholic Church, biographical information, and suggested reading.
Following an unveiling on the symbolically significant date of Pentecost, 2021, the original images were placed on permanent display in the gathering space at Nativity of Mary Church. When parishioners gather for fellowship there, they are surrounded by examples who pray for them and inspire them on their journey toward the kingdom of God.
As an organization, Many Parts hopes to share that inspiration beyond the Nativity of Mary parish community. We seek testimonials from ethnic and racial minority groups and hope to spread these stories near and far; we seek stories from local church communities of the past; and we look for concrete action to demonstrate fully how the Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
We work for a Church that is truly universal (catholic), expresses the single faith of Christ (one), and speaks with moral clarity about the past (holy). We want a Church that tells the story of every race, tongue, and people: a Church that enfolds all into the wounded heart of Christ so that it can flow forth with the water and blood that reconciles all with each other and with God.