Hundreds of people attended the 21st annual Asian Mass and celebration Oct. 7 at St. Clarence Church in North Olmsted.
Representatives of many Asian nationalities within the Diocese of Cleveland participated in the liturgy and celebration, including Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Sri Lankan. Many attendees wore their traditional clothing, filling the church with saris, kimonos, karawangs, hanboks, barongs and ao dai in a rainbow of colors.
A gong sounded to alert the congregation that Mass was beginning. A group of young Vietnamese girls processed in carrying flowers and performed a liturgical dance before Mass. Bishop Nelson Perez, the celebrant, took a seat in the congregation and watched the dance before joining the entrance procession.
Members of the various Asian communities participated in the procession. A combined choir of the various nationalities sang and provided music during Mass. Readings were in several of the native languages, as well as in English.
Concelebrants included clergy members who serve the Asian community, including Father Arnel Lagman, Father Augustine Pham Van Lan, Father Cirilo Nacorda, Father Hilary Nguyen Hai Khanh, Father Sang-Jun Park and Father Albert Veigas. Deacons John Inwoo-Jeong and Charles Shin assisted. Seminarians from the Korean and Vietnamese communities also attended. Bishop Perez introduced the three Vietnamese seminarians who arrived in August and noted that Deacon Inwoo-Jeong is on track to be ordained a priest next May.
Notre Dame Sister Rita Mary Harwood, director of the diocesan Parish Life Office, and a representative of the Korean community made welcoming remarks as the Mass began, acknowledging Bishop Perez’s efforts to visit all corners of the diocese and his understanding that children and young people are the future of the Church.
Theme for this year’s liturgy and celebration was “So that they may be one as we are one,” which is taken from John 17:11.
“We have witnessed many suffering families, many that have been torn apart and some that are still separated. We gather today to pray that they may be healed and may be one as we are one.”
In his homily, the bishop revisited one of his favorite themes: the importance and connection of faith and culture.
“They are inseparable,” he reminded the congregation.
“Some religions are tied to a culture, but not Catholicism,” he said, explaining the roots of the word connect it to all cultures.
The bishop said we must understand a little about Jesus, as well as the time and culture in which he lived in order to understand his message. “God made himself known at a particular time, in a particular place and in a particular culture and with a particular language,” he said, noting that there is not a corner of the world where the Church does not have a presence.
The bishop attributes this fact to the last words of Jesus before his ascension into heaven. “He told his disciples to ‘go.’ He told them to spread his message across the world,” the bishop said.
He also reminded the congregation that families came to the United States for various reasons – some for freedom and some fleeing communism like his parents who emigrated from Cuba. “This country has been very generous to us,” he added.
But as generations pass, the bishop said immigrants begin to lose the connection to their heritage, especially the language. He is a first-generation American and speaks Spanish fluently. However, his second-generation American nephews speak little Spanish.
“Don’t let anyone rob you of the richness of your culture and of your faith,” he said.
In some places, the bishop said people “wear their faith on their sleeve. Here it’s more secular; faith has become a private thing.” He said we’ve learned not to talk about politics and religion publicly in order to avoid potential conflicts.
“But the Christian faith is a faith to be talked about and shared. It’s a faith that got to you and me because it was handed down and was shared; because someone introduced us to Christ. He told his disciples to ‘Go out to all the nations and tell them the Good News’ so they can be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Our faith is a gift and we must share it, as you share your culture. We have a faith that touches every corner of the world and dresses up in the culture of every land,” the bishop said. “What brings us all together is our faith. The Church sees and rejoices in that. It’s a community of communities. How rich we are as the Catholic Church,” he added.
After Mass, the bishop thanked all who participated in the Mass and its planning and noted how pleased he was to see the number of young people in attendance.
Sister Rita Mary also thanked those who assisted with the liturgy and “to God for the gift of us all being able to be here and to Bishop Perez for his time with us.”
A reception featuring foods of the many Asian cultures took place after Mass in the church pavilion. Members of the Korean and Filipino communities provided entertainment.