Cultural DiversityNews

Celebration unites family of God

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SAN DIEGO — “Come experience a part of God’s kingdom here on earth.”

That’s how Narciso Guzmán invites people to attend the Pentecost Mass for all Peoples.

The diocese will present the fifth annual event on June 4, to be celebrated by Bishop Robert McElroy, accompanied by the auxiliary bishops and more than two dozen priests.

Everyone is invited to this event, which brings together more than 25 cultural communities to share their Catholic faith in a joyous feast of colors, languages and traditions.

After the Mass, the communities will host a free cultural festival, in which they will share their cultures, food and entertainment.

This year’s Mass is returning to Cathedral Catholic High School, where it was held in 2019, when more than 2,000 faithful turned out.

“This is an event I definitely put on my calendar,” said Guzmán, a long-time leader in the diocese’s Hispanic Commission, who has assisted in all of these Masses.

This year’s celebration will promote peace among the cultures, amid the horror of the war in Ukraine and in other parts of the world.

“As the people of God, how can we bring peace to the world, in light with the war in Ukraine? How can we witness peace to the world?” asked Father Michael Pham.

He directs the diocese’s Office for Ethnic and Intercultural Communities, which started this event five years ago to celebrate Pentecost, “when the Holy Spirit gathered people of all languages and traditions.”

The communities participating that first year included Africans, African Americans, Chinese, Filipinos, Germans, Hispanics, Indians, Indonesians, Irish, Italians, Koreans, Laotians, Native Americans, Samoans, Tongans and Vietnamese, with many wearing their traditional attire. More communities have joined since then.

The Mass begins with a colorful procession of communities. The liturgy integrates faith traditions, dances and music from the many cultures and proclaims readings in various languages.

“We are one under God’s love,” said Bernadette Aloese, a leader in the Samoan community who has helped in the events. “I can feel He is present with us.”

The organizers of the Mass recently reflected on the impact the event has had on them, their communities and the diocese.

Charlotte Fajardo, the event’s coordinator, recalled how it all started in 2018. The cultural community members were asked to work together to help present the major event. Many were used to organizing their own feast celebrations but had not worked extensively with other cultures. Some did not speak English well.

The demands of hosting the event, however, led them to collaborate, even as they struggled to learn their new partners’ names in a language other than their own.

For that first celebration, each community had to create a cloth with the colors and symbols representative of their culture. Each cloth would be placed on the altar at the start of the Mass, with a white cloth placed last, a symbol of baptism uniting all peoples.

The first time the cultural leaders brought their brightly colored cloths to a meeting felt a little like Christmas, with children showing their gifts to everyone. Tenderly holding them, the leaders explained the history behind each strip of cloth.

“Those cloths have now taken a life of their own,” said Fajardo.

Some communities have incorporated that tradition in their own parishes. And the cloths have been displayed at some diocesan events.

“People want to know more about each cloth and the culture it represents,” she said. “It starts a real conversation.”

The first Pentecost Mass filled Good Shepherd Parish, where it was held, exceeding organizers’ expectations.

The following year, they moved the event to Cathedral Catholic High School, with its spacious gym, where the Mass was held. More than 2,300 turned out.

By then, the cultural leaders had been working side by side for a couple of years. They had seen the power of coming together and sharing their cultures.

“They have become more like brothers and sisters,” Fajardo said. “They knew they were one family.”

Then COVID-19 hit, and public worship was not permitted. The leaders insisted that the Pentecost Mass not be canceled. It was live-streamed, instead, from the Pastoral Center chapel on May 31, 2020, with the leaders participating through Zoom.

Fajardo said the high-profile racial killings of African Americans, the demonizing of immigrants and the violence against Asian Americans provoked thoughtful conversations when the communities came together.

They wanted a forum where people of faith from all cultures and races could explore racism and propose ways to address it, particularly in the Church. They developed a five-segment, online forum, “My Church, My Story: Listen, Dialogue and Action.” Held from August 2020 to February 2021, the series shared the experiences of African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and immigrants and refugees.

Father Pham said that the cultural communities’ faith has grown stronger, and they are more willing to participate in these types of events.

“We are able to come together as a people of God, not separated by color or language, to build the kingdom of God here on earth,” he said.

“That’s a testament to our work in the last five years. People are excited to bring people of different cultures together, the mission that God entrusted to us.”

Giai Do, a long-time leader in the Vietnamese community, said the Pentecost Masses have given him hope.

He hopes that all of the communities can continue to work together to build the Church. Most of all, he hopes that the example the event sets — that people from different cultures, backgrounds and languages can come together — can spread beyond the church walls.

“I hope that it permeates to society at large, and that the country can heal and be united.”

Does he plan to attend this year’s event?”

“Definitely.”

Everyone Is Welcome
Regardless of race and ethnic background, all Catholics are a part of the culture of Jesus Christ.

All are invited to attend the diocese’s annual Pentecost Mass for All People and experience the joy and kinship of the universal Church.

Saturday, June 4

Cathedral Catholic High School, 5555 Del Mar Heights Road, San Diego 92130. Mass in the gym and festival in school’s outdoor plaza. Ample parking available.

10 a.m. Call to worship, with multicultural music; 11 a.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop McElroy; 12 p.m. Free Festival of Cultures, with communities sharing traditional food and music.

For more information, visit sdcatholic.org/Pentecost.

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