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Mass for Multicultural Communities brings cultures together in Falls Church

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The inside of St. James Church in Falls Church resembled the United Nations — Albania, Ghana, Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, and many more — as part of the Mass for Multicultural Communities June 21. The church was awash in vibrant colors as many dressed in outfits indigenous to their countries of origin or of their ancestors. 

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Mass with several concelebrants, many reflecting different cultures. The petitions during Mass were read in multiple languages. 

The evening started with a musical prelude performed by the multicultural choir directed by Que-Thanh Le. The music during Mass took on a more multicultural flavor with only one song in English during communion. 

“This year, Bishop Burbidge wanted more non-English music during the Mass,” said Le. “My challenge was to teach the choir songs in Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese.” 

During his homily, Bishop Burbidge said “It’s wonderful that every year we have this event, a celebration of many cultures in our diocese. And I’m particularly pleased that the event is not only a banquet or dinner or a festival —although I’m looking forward to it — I am very happy to begin with the holy sacrifice of the Mass,” he said. “Ever convinced that whatever difficulties or chaos we are experiencing now in our world, in countries from where so many of you hail, in our own nation and in our church, no matter what they are, we have the strength we need in Christ Jesus, Our Lord. 

“It is my hope and prayer that by celebrating this Mass tonight, we all leave here stronger — stronger in our faith and in our conviction that Christ alone can transform us and heal us and make us new.” 

Bridget Wilson — the newest director of the diocesan Office of Multicultural Ministries who took over for Corinne Monogue in June — said the event was a way to introduce herself in her capacity. 

“This event shows our unity in the Eucharist,” she said. “Despite all the cultural differences, we can come together because we have the same faith. It is a beautiful way for us to come together and worship and highlight our cultural differences.”

After Mass, attendees moved to the parish hall for a reception with performances by Mountain Kim martial arts, dancers from the Boyle School of Irish Dance, and liturgical dancers from St. Anthony of Padua Church in Falls Church. Attendees visited tables from multicultural communities to learn more about their culture and sample foods. 

Merita McCormack, a parishioner of St. John the Beloved Church in McLean, represented the table from her home country of Albania. “It’s beautiful because Albania has a history of religious persecution during communism,” she said. “Albanians are turning back to their Christian roots. Being able to have a table here shows we too exist because religion was banned when Albania was the first country in the world to declare by constitution that the country was atheist.”

Len Sese, a Filipino parishioner of St. James, appreciated the event being at his parish. “We are all different ethnicities and the culture we all share is being Catholic,” he said. “It’s so nice to have a chance to get together and be honored with the presence of Bishop Burbidge.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019