Proof of a universal Catholic Church could be heard in the 16 languages that shared prayers, readings and songs during the diocesan Cultural Diversity Mass.
Members from the many ethnic communities that live within the nearly 44,000-square miles of the Diocese of Phoenix filled St. Augustine Parish in west Phoenix for the biannual Mass April 25 hosted by the diocesan Cultural Diversity Team and the Office of Ethnic Ministries.
“There’s always something new and exciting that the communities bring with them, either music at the Mass, afterwards with the dancing or even the food,” said Ignacio Rodriguez, associate director of the diocesan Division of Ethnic Ministries.
Members of choirs from the various ethnic communities filled much of the pews on one side of the church and took turns leading the crowd in song from their pew and from the choir area. Catholics of various ethnicities and ages filled the remaining pews. Dozens of Massgoers squeezed into the foyer with others standing along the back wall throughout the liturgy.
Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares readily welcomed the crowd in English and Spanish then paused to think of hearty greetings in at least four other languages. The remainder of Mass prayers seamlessly switched between English and Spanish.
“It’s so beautiful to actually see the Church universal as it’s gathered this evening,” Bishop Nevares told the crowd.
He reminded them that “Catholic” means “universal.” The faithful may be from different countries, speak other languages, observe distinct customs and prepare distinguishable food, they remain one body in one Lord. They practice the one faith united by their one baptism and one God.
That unity should draw out a natural concern for one another, the bishop said, steps away from a collage image of country flags worldwide. The Vatican flag flanked the sides.
“It’s our faith in Jesus Christ that unites us. The presence of Jesus in his Word and in the Eucharist, which we will all receive together, unites us,” the bishop said.
He highlighted recent global tragedies including the devastating earthquake in Nepal that morning and volcanic eruptions in Chile days earlier and the need to remember those brothers and sisters.
The bishop spent the rest of his bilingual homily personally inviting everyone gathered to a “Celebration of Unity” May 23 at the Phoenix Convention Center. The daylong gathering for Christian teenagers and adults will feature the Catholic and Christian faithful, including both bishops of Phoenix and a special message from Pope Francis.
The diocesan Cultural Diversity Mass didn’t forget about the children. Bishop Nevares gave young representatives of various cultures a special blessing at the onset of the liturgy. After Mass, Catholics of every age enjoyed a multicultural buffet on the parish plaza and scattered about in various classrooms. Young mariachi players offered live music.
Ethnic Ministries in the Diocese of Phoenix
The Diocesan Division of Ethnic Ministries strives to build a prayerful community that celebrates cultural diversity. Learn more about the 12 ethnic communities spread throughout the diocese that offer liturgies according to their customs and languages.