The diversity of Asian and Pacific Island customs melded with the unity of faith at the 23rd annual Asian Catholic community Mass and gathering on Oct. 6 at St. Clarence Church in North Olmsted. Encountering Christ in Harmony was the event theme.
Bishop Martin Amos, bishop emeritus of Davenport and a native of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, celebrated the liturgy. Concelebrating were eight priests serving in the diocese who are members of various Asian communities – Fathers Kiran Kumar, OdeM, Arnel Lagman, Augustine Pham Van Lan, Cirilo Nacorda, Hilary Nguyen Hai Khanh, Moses Seounghoon Cheoung, Albert Veigas and Peter Bang -- as well as Deacon Charles Shin.
Banners for the Asian Catholic community as well as the Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino and Indian nationality groups lined one wall of the church.
In his homily, Bishop Amos talked about harmony, which he said is “three or more notes that are pleasing to the ear.” In contrast, he said discord hurts the ear. “When we live in harmony, we encounter God. There is a lot of discord in the world. But when we work together we achieve harmony; when we don’t there is discord,” the bishop said.
He mentioned violence, addiction, migration, economic differences, and racism as some types of discord.
“Harmony doesn’t mean eliminating all discord because that would leave only one note and you can’t have harmony with only one note,” Bishop Amos said. “There has to be a oneness among us – and diversity.”
The bishop said harmony begins when we work to have peace in our hearts.
“Asians and Pacific Islanders are socially diverse, yet one as Asians. They all have values and gifts to share with us,” he said, including the value they place on family, filial piety, respect for parents – both living and dead – and respect for their elders and leaders.
“You also have a wonderful history of Catholicism and a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother,” he said to the congregation.
But he said the Asian community also has challenges, including trying to remain faithful to its values and traditions while understanding that this country isn’t a replica of their homeland. It is a challenge to pass on the culture and traditions to the second and third generations.
“In diversity there is harmony and in that harmony we will encounter Christ,” Bishop Amos said.
Portions of many cultures were incorporated into the liturgy and subsequent celebration. Many in the congregation wore the colorful ethnic dress of their heritage, such as Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Indian and Sri Lankan.
A choir comprised of representatives of several nationalities sang at the liturgy. Gongs announced the beginning of the Mass and the consecration. The offertory procession included flowers and other items symbolizing the various cultures. There also was an incense ceremony.
After Mass, Sister Rita Mary Harwood, secretary of parish life and development for the diocese, thanked St. Clarence Parish for welcoming the Asian community each year, members of the event planning committee, those who cooked ethnic food for the reception, the musicians and singers, altar servers, ushers and performers at the reception.
She also introduced several seminarians from Vietnam who are pursuing and discerning vocations to the priesthood at Borromeo and Saint Mary seminaries, as well as two religious sisters from Vietnam who are in the diocese. She also acknowledged the Sri Lankan community, which had a larger group attending this year.
"Thank you to each of you who joined us for this year’s celebration of our faith,” Sister said. “Just look around and witness how present and loving God is in each person here.”
After Mass, the group moved across the parking lot to the parish pavilion where they enjoyed a variety of Asian foods including egg rolls, fried rice, noodles, kimchi, fresh fruit and more, as well as entertainment.