“Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.”
— Acts of the Apostles, 2:5; Revised Standard version

PHOENIX — When St. Luke summarized the historic manifestation of God’s Holy Spirit upon the group of earliest church believers at Pentecost, his description of the onlookers was that of a widely diverse group.

The Diocese of Phoenix, with its 2 million Roman Catholics, might not approach such a broad collection, but its members nonetheless represent an ample array of cultures and ethnicities. Each year, in spring and fall, the Diocese celebrates its love for the unique and distinctive traits of those people groups.

But Sunday’s Cultural Diversity Celebration marked the first time the event coincided with the Feast of Pentecost, which closes out the Church’s Easter season, and was televised across the Diocese.

Representatives of the Hispanic, Native American, African-American, Filipino, Polish, Vietnamese, Korean, Indonesian, Chinese, Hindi, Eritrean, Burmese, Sudanese, Chaldean, Croatian, Tongan and others assembled with their Catholic brethren at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix for a Mass that featured slices of heritage in language, song, dress, and — after the service — food and dance.

Prayers were offered in several different languages, as were the First and Second readings and the Responsorial Psalm. The Prayers of the Faithful were said in a different native tongue as a representative from each culture laid a colorful banner of their heritage across the altar.

Prelude and Mass hymns were sung by the Filipino and St. Josephine Bakhita Mission Parish children’s choirs.

“We’ve experienced — since the very beginnings (of the Church) — unity and diversity. Jesus came into a particular cultural setting,” explained Diocesan Office of Ethnic Ministries Associate Director Ignacio Rodriguez. “The Church always has inserted itself into the culture in which it lives. The Church always has been a welcome place for whoever wishes to be a part of it.”


The approach resonates with Catholics of various backgrounds, including Indonesian Fify Juliana.

Director of the bell choir at Church of the Resurrection in Tempe, Juliana has been a Valley resident since 2001, when she arrived to pursue her degree in education.

“I feel very blessed to be part of this Church that’s universal. I can worship in my own language, but also in a number of different languages,” Juliana explained. “You don’t need to speak or understand the language to know what’s going on. The parts of the Mass are the same. The LORD understands all languages.”

That inclusive principle prompted the first Diocesan celebration nearly 30 years ago and led to its expansion from one to two Masses annually at the urging of Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares after he joined the Diocese in 2010.

Sunday’s Mass was the first celebrated by Bishop John P. Dolan, who was installed in August 2022.

No stranger to promoting diversity, Bishop Dolan arrived from the Diocese of San Diego, where he celebrated the Asian Indian community’s first Mass Sept. 5, 2019, marking the Feast of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Bishop Dolan’s Homily Sunday was punctuated by reminders of God’s greatness, manifest through His unique and eternal love for people of all races, cultures and ethnicities and carried out through the Holy Spirit.

“How great is our God?” the bishop told the packed sanctuary several times, noting while everyone at Jesus’ baptism might have been expecting the Jordan River waters to part, God instead opened heaven, and anointed Jesus with the Spirit.

It is this Spirit that sends us, as the faithful, to share God’s truth and love with a world that “seems to live in despair,” he said.

“We can bring joy, and that joy can only be made complete by the power and the strength and the fire of the Holy Spirit who animates us today.”

Only that same power can minister to such a diverse audience.

“One thing I often have to remind myself, as sort of a Euro-American (the bishop is of Irish-American heritage), is that I only represent one portion of the Church. I can see, especially today, that Church comes in different colors and forms and shapes and sizes.”

“As we celebrate this Eucharist, drawn together by the Holy Spirit, let us celebrate that we are all members of the same body of Christ.”


The Diocese of Phoenix is considered one of the nation’s most diverse. Over a dozen communities have Mass celebrated in their own language. While no figures were available from entities such as the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB), which maintains a committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, data isn’t needed to characterize Phoenix’s makeup.

“I don’t have numbers (on cultural diversity), (but) I can tell you anecdotally that Phoenix sits near the top of the nation. The number ranks high compared to other dioceses,” Rodriguez said.

Cultural variety is not a new concept here.

Established in 1969, the Diocese’s diversity has broadened over the years, with Hispanics a continually expanding group.

Carlos Lares and his wife, Gloria Arvizu, enjoy sharing their heritage with fellow Catholics.

The couple are catechists at their parish, St. Frances Xavier in Phoenix, and Carlos plays guitar and sings in the choir.

“We didn’t know too much about other cultures; how they live,” Lares said. “We have met a lot of people and have friends who are from India, who are Polish, Italian, Filipino and from China. It is interesting, and we like that.”


The word “catholic” literally means universal, as in universal church, and the concept is rooted in the Church’s earliest days.

Explaining the Holy Spirit’s manifestation at Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2, St. Peter told the crowd of witnesses that the Spirit’s work came without regard to culture or ethnicity.

Quoting from the Old Testament prophet Joel, Peter said that in the last days God “will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh…and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.”

“That is confirmation (that) God loves us the way we are,” said Juliana. “It doesn’t matter to God what language we speak or customs we follow, as long as we remain in His teachings.”

Tamara Long, a member of the Navajo community and parishioner of St. Theresa in Phoenix and leader of a Kateri Prayer Circle, agreed.

“The first word that comes to mind is ‘inclusion.’ God is inclusive of everyone,” she said.

“That’s how it should be,” added Ofelia Spiridon, part of Our Lady of the Valley Parish’s Filipino community. “We are worshipping one God.”

“If celebrating one’s culture is a comfort and reinforcement, learning another’s deepens one’s faith,” said Juliana. “One is more able to love as God does. I look at diversity as something that enriches our lives.”

For Emmanuel Jacob, parishioner of St. Thomas More in Glendale, father of four and native of the east African nation of Eritrea, across the Red Sea from Yemen, Sunday’s Mass reflected America’s character as a “melting pot” of freedom and opportunity.

“In all the other countries I have been to, there are good people, but it’s one culture (there), and hard to fit in. (Here) it’s multicultural; everybody fits in. It is a good way to let people know we are different, but we have more commonalities than differences,” he said.

So, it was with the visitors to Jerusalem who witnessed the Holy Spirit’s arrival on Pentecost.

“They were from different places; they spoke different languages, but they could understand each other. That’s what I felt here today.”

Basia Kozuch, office manager of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in north Phoenix and member of the Polish community, called it a wonderful Mass.

“(It) was just so uplifting,” Kozuch said, joined by over two dozen of her fellow parishioners.

“Being an immigrant from Poland, it’s very important for us to be together, being proud of our Catholic faith, of our heritage; of Polish traditions as well.”

But what set the day apart was the variety and depth of other cultures, an experience that enabled her to more fully appreciate her Catholic faith.

“Seeing the beautiful costumes, listening to the readings in different languages, it just opens your mind that Polish and English aren’t the only two languages we pray in. We support (other cultures) when we have events. That’s important; to be as one community under Jesus Christ.”

For Joseph Moore, a 36-year parishioner of Ss. Simon and Jude, this was a brand-new experience. While the cathedral hosts many of the Diocese’s special Masses, the Cultural Diversity event occurs at a different site each time.

“Culturally, (we’re a) very diverse (Diocese),” he said. “I don’t think I realized the extent of it until you see today,” he said.

“The bishop has done a really good job of trying to bring the whole Diocese together and make us recognize that this diocese is really made up of many different people from many different places, as the Church is.”

“You see people from all different cultures and languages all together in one place, and I think it does help you recognize the Church is so much bigger, and everyone is welcome, and everyone is loved.”

“It makes me recognize when the Church was formed — Jesus said “Go out and teach the whole world. This (Mass) brings that back to life.”

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