Catholic faces at Mass

On Christmas Day, my family and I visiting relatives in the San Francisco Bay area attended Mass at Holy Spirit Church in Fremont. We have done so on previous Christmases. This is a nice suburban church partly reconstructed a few years ago so that Mass is celebrated in the round.

We sat in the new part looking toward the older part of the church. But what really impressed me on this visit was the significant ethnic diversity of this parish.

It is an older Portuguese church but its parishioners are mostly Asian -- those whose families descend from India and East Asia -- and Latinos. I only saw a sprinkling of white people presumably Portuguese, Irish and Italian. Although I detected some foreign accents among some of the adults what was noticeable was the American accent of the younger people.

The Mass was celebrated by a priest from India and aided by a Chinese-American deacon. The prayers and songs were all in English.

I couldn’t help but think how much this Mass reflected the demographic transformation of not only in the church in the United States but throughout the world. Third World people now form the majority of the universal Catholic church. This change rather than threatening the viability of the church has instead infused it with new energy and creativity as Catholic rituals reflect this new diversity.

This energy is not only the result of ethnic changes but of generational ones as well. As I looked around at Christmas Mass, I also was conscience of how many young people in there 20s to infants were present. All of us were there as Catholics but we were all of many ethnic and generational backgrounds and you could feel the vibrancy of this presence.

My good friend Fr. Virgilio Elizondo observes that the future of the U.S. church is mestizo, meaning an ethnic hybrid church and he is correct. I saw this plainly at Christmas Mass.

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