Celebrating Diversity

 by Jim Haley    

They came to sing, dance, talk and pray, all celebrating a host of different backgrounds and cultures that make up the body of a diverse Catholic Church worldwide, and the melting pot of the United States.

It was on Sunday, May 31, at Holy Rosary’s fifth annual multicultural mass and luncheon, when people from many races and traditions signified by their attendance that they are one in Christ.

They sang in Spanish, South African, Swahili and more. They read scriptures in Malayalam, Korean, Arabic, Italian, Romanian and English.

And they heard a talk celebrating the celebration of cultures, races, and languages.

Afterwards, hundreds filed into the Pastoral Center where the taste of mainly Asian food, the sights of dancers and costumes and the music of different nations pleased the senses.

Those who didn’t feast with taste and eyes, labored to prepare foods from various lands, set things up, serve and clean. Indeed, it was a total community celebration.

Pastor Fr. Kenneth Haydock, who pushed for an annual multicultural celebration, said that he had been influenced by Anthony Gnanarajah, the former assistant superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Seattle. It was Gnanarajah who delivered the talk at the 11 a.m. mass, saying that a celebration of cultures in a multicultural, multiracial, multilingual country is essential.

“No country’s history is more closely bound to immigration than that of the United States of America,” Gnanarajah told the congregation. “Our Catholic Church in the United States is continually enriched by people from every continent and country. We are of many colors, speaking different languages at home but all are uniquely created in the image of God.”

He told the congregation to imagine a beautiful garden full of colored roses and rhododendrons, orchids and other flowers.

“We may look different but all are beautiful children of one God with different colors and cultures,” he said

Christianity is a global religion of 2.2 billion people spread throughout the world, he said. The word Catholic itself means Universal.

“At the beginning of this year while addressing Catholic educators, our Holy Father Pope Francis said Catholic educators must involve themselves in ‘evangelization through innovative ways and courage with the diverse souls of multicultural society’.”

The Catholic population in the United States continues to be heavily shaped by immigration, including a rising share of people from Latin America. More than 52% of all immigrants are Catholics. Among 75.4 million Catholics, 22.2 million were born outside U.S., he said.

In this archdiocese there are about 866,000 Catholics, nearly half of them are non-Hispanic whites, about a third are Hispanic, 13 percent Asian or Pacific Islanders, 5 percent African Americans and a smaller group of Native Americans or Native Alaskans, he said.

“The significant growth of Catholic population has taken place through immigration, mainly from, Latin American, Caribbean and Asian countries,” Gnanarajah said.

People immigrate to the U.S for a variety of reasons, including avoidance of oppression, educational opportunities or to join family members, he said. The onus for the accommodation of various cultures is partly on the main dominant culture, he said. Newly arriving cultures also have to do their share of the accommodation.

“We are children of one God. How do we welcome the ‘stranger’ among us? Are we inclusive at all levels? Do we stop with mere tokenism?” he asked.

“Jesus Christ continuously renews all cultures through the creative power of the Holy Spirit, the infinite source of beauty, love and truth,” he added. “Welcome to our multicultural church where unity prevails over uniformity.”


 To read Dr. Gnanarajah’s complete text, click here:  Dr. Gnanarajah’s Reflection HRE Multicultural 31 May 2015