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‘Magnificent diversity in our diocese’


GATHERED AS ONE: Representatives of 17 cultural communities participated in a procession before the Pentecost Mass for All Peoples on May 18 in the gym at Cathedral Catholic High School. (Credit: John Gastaldo)

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SAN DIEGO — Cardinal Robert W. McElroy  called on more than 2,000 faithful from dozens of cultures on hand for the Pentecost Mass for All Peoples to journey together to help renew the Church.

The Diocese of San Diego held the seventh annual Mass on May 18 at Cathedral Catholic High School, where 17 cultural communities from across the region participated, from Africans to Native Americans to Vietnamese. Afterward, they joyously turned out for a festival on the school grounds, where they munched on samples from native cuisines, enjoyed live music and dances and visited with each other.

“Each year, this ceremony shows, in a tangible way, the magnificent diversity in our diocese — diversity that shows strength and our unity,” said Cardinal McElroy in opening remarks.

“We are gathered as one in the grace of our God that unites all of us — every race, and people and culture — because we’re all part of God’s family. And on this day, more than any other day, we celebrate the fact of the unity of our humanity, and of the need to overcome all the barriers that separate us, that separate peoples and nations, and to understand the call to see us first as God sees us, children of the same Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

The cardinal urged the faithful to “truly listen to one another,” as the Church is calling all Catholics to do in the four-year, worldwide initiative, called the synod.

“It is the act of truly listening that builds the bonds of community within the life of the Church. It brings us ever closer when we come to understand that all of us are on the same journey in this life,” he said in his homily.

The diocese’s Office for Ethnic and Intercultural Communities presents the event. For months, the cultural communities work collaboratively across languages to bring all its elements together. At every moment, those who attend the event are surrounded by the colors and sounds and traditions of the cultures, a joyous representation of the universality of the Church.

Before the Mass, the representatives of the cultural communities gathered to prepare to process into the gym one by one. Reyna Vargas, from St. Gabriel’s Parish, stood holding the banner of the Mexican community, taking in the tapestry of peoples unfolding around her.

“It’s beautiful to live this experience,” said Vargas, who was attending the event for the first time. “It’s great to get to meet each other as brothers and sisters from other countries but know  that we’re all part of the same culture of faith.”

Cathy Ward had been to every Pentecost Mass since it started in 2018, representing the Irish community.

“People are coming up to say hello,” she said. “I’m so excited to be part of this wonderful Catholic community.”

A choir made up of members from several cultures, led by Jed Banayat, sang before the Mass in various languages and during it.

Afterward, the faithful streamed outside to visit festival booths that lined the school’s central courtyard. They offered information about ministries at the diocese, including vocations, and 13 cultural communities offered samples of their native food.

Julie Misleh, from St. Brigid’s Parish, was attending the Pentecost Mass for the third time.

“Everyone comes together as children of God. That’s why I’m here.”

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‘Journeying and listening together’
The following are excerpts from Cardinal McElroy’s homily at the Pentecost Mass:

“We have read so many times in the Scriptures the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But I think almost always we get part of it wrong because we understand that Pentecost is the birth of the Church, of the grace of the Holy Spirit that comes upon the Apostles. In that moment, the grace that God made manifest in the Church flows out to the whole of the world because the Apostles go out and preach. In that preaching, people from every land, race, and way of life are converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“What we get right about that most of the time is the gift of tongues given to the Apostles. It was the first proof that the Apostles spoke in a way that they could be understood. But that’s only one half of the miracle. The other half is a community gathered from all the nations of the world listening with the unity of heart, hearing as one … They listened in a way which put all their differences aside, leaving only their unified hearts and souls, which listened as one. Only that was evident at that moment, not the divisions. We gather today because we wish to reflect that same vision of what the Church can and should be: listening as one mind and one heart to God’s message for all of us.

“In a special way during this time of our synodal renewal, we must listen actively and with ever greater empathy. Listen to the voice of God and listen to the voice of God reflected in others in the community who share with us and we share with them. At the very center of the synodal renewal is a willingness to radically listen, to come to believe that when we gather together, we have more to learn from others than what we say, and to be attuned to what they are saying, understanding it is God’s grace acting in them. It comes into our hearts and souls and deepens the unity there.

“It is the act of truly listening that builds the bonds of community within the life of the Church. It brings us ever closer when we come to understand that all of us are on the same journey in this life. Pilgrims in this earth receive the joy of every single other member of the Church that joins in a common journey of walking together. … Only in that way can the grace of God be fully present in the life of the Church and the community. The heart of synodality is this notion of journeying and listening.

“We’re not traveling alone or in groups. We are all on this journey together, and we’re all called to listen to one another. In this time of renewal, I hope and pray that all of us will be renewed and blessed to listen to one another in prayer, in reflection, in decision-making, in action, and listen with a new openness that says, ‘When I hear the voice of another, in some way, I hear the voice of God being present.’”

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