SAN DIEGO — “It was absolutely beautiful.”
“People’s hearts were full.”
That’s how Mary Ann Thiebach describes the diocese’s initial Multicultural Mass and Festival held last year.
She was so moved by the experience that she and her husband will participate in this year’s event, representing the German culture.
That’s one of the 20 or so Catholic cultures with roots in the U.S. and around the world that will come together for the Pentecost celebration on June 8 at Cathedral Catholic High School. Bishop Robert W. McElroy will again celebrate the Mass, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop John P. Dolan and more than 15 priests. That will be followed by a festival with free food samplings from the cultures and live musical entertainment.
The joyous event is a feast for the senses — and the spirit.
Before the Mass last year, a mariachi band alternated playing with an African drum, as faithful spontaneously broke into dancing with one another.
When it was time to begin, representatives of each culture lined up in a procession to enter the church, each hoisting a sign with their name. First up was African, then African- American, Chamorro, Chinese, Italian, Korean all the way to Vietnamese. The men, women and children wore their traditional attire, a stream of bright colors flowing into the church.
The multilingual Mass featured rituals and music from various cultures.
“Hearing the Prayers of the Faithful in different languages was very moving. Even though I did not necessarily understand all the words, I felt like we were all unified,” recalled Thiebach, the assistant principal of Good Shepherd School.
Bringing the cultures of the world together to share their Catholic faith is the point of the celebration. Catholics know that they are part of a universal Church, noted Daniel Godinez, who also attended last year’s Multicultural Mass.
However, they usually go to Mass in one parish, in one community, with the same fellow faithful.
“But to be a part of something bigger, from a cultural perspective, in the same region, with the same belief system, it’s very impactful, very motivational,” said Godinez.
He’s Mexican-American and serves as the Young Adult Ministry leader at Most Precious Blood Parish in Chula Vista. He said it was especially important for the younger generation to attend this event.
“Not only will they experience something different, they can go far beyond Chula Vista or San Diego,” he said. “They will see the cultures of the world coming together to celebrate the love and life of Christ.”
The organizers of the event, the diocesan Office for Ethnic and Intercultural Communities, is particularly promoting it to the region’s young Catholics.
“This is a beautiful opportunity for us to experience and to share the Good News of Jesus with all cultures,” said the office’s director, Father Michael Pham. “God wants to bring us back into one fold, which is in the kingdom of Heaven, and which is already initiated here on Earth through God.”
The joyous blending of faith and culture makes the multicultural event like no other.
“It just felt so good to celebrate one another in Church that way,” concluded Thiebach. “Of course, I felt closer to God and I felt closer to my neighbor.”