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St. Bernadette Church in Springfield hosts Tibetan association

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Decorated with Tibetan prayer flags hanging from the basketball hoops and the stage bursting with colorful tapestries, the St. Bernadette School gym in Springfield was transformed for the Capital Area Tibetan Association’s visit by the seventh Yongzin Ling Rinpoche, who speaks internationally on Buddhism.

For a people who have been in exile for decades, St. Bernadette provided the Tibetan community a home Aug. 24-25.

Father Donald J. Rooney, pastor and director of the diocesan Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, belongs to a Buddhist Catholic study group and opened the parish to this event. “The Tibetans have been in exile since 1959. They’re very afraid of the young people forgetting all of their traditions and culture, so we were able to provide a place for them to bring this high-level lama to teach them about their religion,” he said. “I think we need to provide hospitality for each other like this.”

St. Bernadette parishioners were invited to join the lunch, interreligious prayer and dialogue, and Tibetan cultural show Aug. 25.

The prayer and dialogue opened with a chant by Venerable Ling Rinpoche. Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and Hindu prayers for healing were offered by Venerable Bhante Uparatana of the Sri Lankan Buddhist Temple in Wheaton, Md.; Father Rooney; Rizwan Jaka of the ADAMS Islamic Center in Herndon; and Vasudeva Murthy of the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, Md.

“Healing is needed in so many ways in people’s lives,” said Father Rooney. “The greatest healing that we need is the healing of division.”

After the prayer, each faith representative gave talks on spiritual and physical healing.

The dialogue was followed by entertainment, including performances by the Capital Area Tibetan Association Children’s Language Class and former members of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, as well as Mongolian and Vietnamese cultural shows.

St. Bernadette parishioner Henry Champagne said he appreciated hearing what the other religions believe.

“Father Rooney’s activities with the interreligious (community) have intrigued me,” he said. “I see how different we are but how alike we are in a lot of ways.”

Lara Paul, a parishioner or Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria, is a member of PIERs (Parish Interreligious and Ecumenical Representatives). She appreciated hearing how the different traditions approached the topic of healing.

“It’s very easy to fall into stereotypes and not see other faith traditions as regular people and not see how much we have in common and how much we can learn from each other,” she said. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019