By Sister Sonia-Marie Fernández, MHSH,
Pastoral Associate, St. Gabriel Church
We are alive with the music and languages of a variety of nations at Saint Gabriel Church in Baltimore County. For more than 12 years, Msgr. Thomas Phillips, pastor, has welcomed and celebrated the diversity of its members in Sunday liturgies. The liturgies may be led by the Youth and Young Adults, the Africans, Hispanic or Filipino members of the community.
However, once a year this faith community celebrates ALL of these cultures in a liturgy with nine or more languages and songs from the African, Filipino, Hispanic, Indian and other cultures. This is Diversity Day.
On this one day we celebrate both our unity and our diversity. It is an opportunity for parishioners to exerience the dress, food, music and dance of other cultures. Wonders of color and fabrics of all sorts decorate the bodies of each particular enthic group. Words and songs of thanksgiving and worship to our God makes us grateful for the wonders of God and the gift of tongues and diversity.
The many varied styles and colors of dress and head wraps fill the church like flowers on a beautiful spring day. Traditions from various cultures are incorporated into the liturgical celebration. Syro-Malabar from India form an honor guard with drums and cymbals to welcome the Bishop and the Pastor; the African Christian Women’s Association members from Cameroon bring the Gospel Book on their backs with shouts in Spanish, French, English and their native dialect announcing that, “The Word of the Lord is Alive—listen to it.”
The parishioners listen to the same new testament readings in nine or ten languages. Members bring gifts to support the parish and the children participate by bringing the flags from the countries that are represented in parish community.
The celebration continues on the parish grounds as the Bishop leads the people for a blessing, followed by examples of the diverse customs of each of the cultures. We are entertained by a variety of music and dance from India, Mexico and Africa. And then we all share in the food from each of the nations.
One can see the universal Catholic Church at work—united, diverse and One with God and each other.