Many languages and traditions, together before our God

Parishioners celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Portland, Ore. (Leif Kehrwald)
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Portland, Ore. — Thursday afternoon it started to snow. About two or three inches accumulated, and it warmed a bit, and melted a bit, and then the freezing rain began.

Friday morning, everything was covered by ice, somewhat over half an inch. It was miserable to go anywhere, but I had to be at the church because we had Evelyn's viewing at 5 p.m., rosary at 6:30 p.m. and funeral Mass at 7 p.m. We spent the day scraping, shoveling and trying to make entering the church as safe as we could. Quite a few people came for the viewing, many more for the rosary and at least 200 for the Mass and reception that followed.

Evelyn was born in the Philippines, and the readings at Mass and much of the music was in Tagalog, the language of her birth and family.

At 10 a.m. the next morning, I presided at a wedding Mass for a couple who were born in Micronesia. Even though everything was still pretty icy and dangerous, some of the large family were able to attend the wedding. By good luck, the musicians got here, and we had the readings in Chuuk and all of the music in Chuuk and according to their traditions.

As soon as the Mass was over and the pictures were taken, our Latino parishioners and members of our Multicultural Committee flooded in and started to set up for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the sounds of Mexican music and language were all through the church and hall.

As we were starting our regular Saturday night Mass in English, our Eritrean parishioners were starting their rosary and prayers in the parish center, in their language, Tigrinya, with their traditions.

Sunday morning, the church and gym were festive with decorations and altars to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mass began with a procession led by resplendent Aztec dancers, and music in Spanish coming from our community. The Mass with Spanish readings, prayers and music ended with a procession into the gym, again led by the Aztec dancers, and a joyous celebration of Mexican culture and food.

The Aztec dancers mesmerized us with their powerful drumming and dancing in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is a way of praying that has been lost to our Northern European cultures.

This is what a parish should be, a home where all of God's children pray in their languages and traditions, and we all join together before our God who understands all of us.

[Fr. Elwin C. Schwab is the parish administrator of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Portland, Ore.]

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