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50th Anniversary Church Celebration

alec vanderboom

On November 4, my new parish celebrated the 50th anniversary of the dedication of our church with our Archbishop Donald Wuerl. The Mass was billed as a "multi-lingual celebration." To say that our parish is diverse is an understatement. Even though we are technically on the outskirts of D.C. proper, our suburb is a magnet for new immigrants. The parish sports three choirs for the three languages of its Masses, English, Spanish & French. The prayers of the faithful were in fifteen different languages including Swahili & Vietnamese. At the offertory, girls in African cloth with ashes spread across their shoulders brought up baskets of guavas, pineapples, and bananas along with the customary gifts of wine, wafers and dollar bills.

Singing as part of a multi-lingual mass was incredible. I stumbled through the opening hymns of "Bienaventurados" and "Yo Canto Amor." My Spanish, which I had stopped studying in tenth grade, was barely recognizable. My Thai & Indian co-horts in the soprano section were much better at joining their voices to Spanish choir and it's lovely Mexican guitar solos than I. When we got to the Greek Kyrie and Latin Pater Noster- there was such a charge. All three choirs, all on the same page in the same language. It made me long to attend a full Latin Mass. The truly electric moment was singing "One Bread/One Body" with the beautiful Spanish counterpoint "Un Pan, Un Cuerpo." Singing about the unity of the Eucharist, while parishioners from all corners of the earth came up to reverently receive the Body of Christ from our D.C. Archbishop was so moving. I truly felt part of the World-Wide Catholic body in my local neighborhood.

During our first choir practice last Monday night, I was kicking myself for being so white and so clueless about languages. I'd studied Spanish and Latin in high school, but never got into the easy conversing stage. I felt guilty for slaughtering even the Pater Noster, which my husband has so patiently taught himself after the encouragement to learn more Latin from our dear Pope. Suddenly, the choir director (originally from Trinidad) pulled out our Meditation Anthem. The Mexican guitarists promptly got lost. My soprano co-horts dropped out. Yet my vowels finally rang out strong and true. "Great is Thy Faithfulness !" How many times had I sung out that song during my Methodist upbringing? I glad that even my Protestant heritage could weave together along with the cultural backgrounds of so many others last Sunday to give great praise to our Father in Heaven and to gratefully aw knowledge our "one Lord."

Great Is Thy Faithfulness! Great Is Thy Faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided,
Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me!