November 21, 2014

Saint’s feast day celebrates Church’s cultures, ethnicities

Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez, left, Maria Pimentel-Gannon, Paul Burns, Marlon Alfonso, Francis Blay-Mockey and Veronica Fuentes hold hands while praying the Our Father during the Nov. 3 St. Martin de Porres Mass at St. Anthony Church in Indianapolis. The annual liturgy, sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry, celebrates how the Catholic Church brings together people of various cultures, ethnicities and races. St. Martin de Porres, who was biracial, was a Dominican brother who died in 1639 in Lima, Peru. (Photos by Sean Gallagher)

Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez, left, Maria Pimentel-Gannon, Paul Burns, Marlon Alfonso, Francis Blay-Mockey and Veronica Fuentes hold hands while praying the Our Father during the Nov. 3 St. Martin de Porres Mass at St. Anthony Church in Indianapolis. The annual liturgy, sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry, celebrates how the Catholic Church brings together people of various cultures, ethnicities and races. St. Martin de Porres, who was biracial, was a Dominican brother who died in 1639 in Lima, Peru. (Photos by Sean Gallagher)

By Mike Krokos

Caroline Reuter is no stranger to new languages.

As an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame, she studied overseas in Spain for a time and learned to appreciate the gifts of a different culture.

So the unique combination of prayers in various languages she heard during the annual St. Martin de Porres Mass on Nov. 3 at St. Anthony Church in Indianapolis was music to her ears. (Related: See a photo gallery from this event)

“It was beautiful. I loved the different languages … to hear Spanish again, to hear the combination, just to hear all the voices, all the people coming together and really the cultural aspect, it’s beautiful to see that brought here,” said the 2014 college graduate who is a first-year student in Echo, Notre Dame’s two-year master’s degree program that trains prospective parish administrators of religious education, high school religion teachers and campus ministers.

“It was beautiful to see that community of the archdiocese, of the Church, really the universality of the Church in this Mass,” continued Reuter, who teaches sophomore religion at Roncalli High School and is a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish, both in Indianapolis.

During the Mass, readings and a homily were proclaimed in English and Spanish.

Prayers of the faithful were spoken in English, French, Spanish and Tagalog— a national language of the Philippines.

A later prayer during the Mass was said in Italian.

“Tonight, we celebrate the beauty, the joy and the challenge of being a truly Catholic Church,” said Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, principal celebrant and homilist, at the beginning of the liturgy.

“We are called to prolong here, in central and southern Indiana, the double miracle of Pentecost. The first miracle is clear: Everyone hears the Good News, in their own language, in their own culture.

“[The second miracle is] the Holy Spirit doesn’t wipe it all out, so that everyone becomes like a gray porridge. We remain a rainbow that is illumined by the presence of Christ, and whose Holy Spirit brings us together and makes our diversity rich and good, and an image of God.”

The importance of St. Martin de Porres is that he embraced his identity as the son of an African and a Hispanic, noted Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez, director of the archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry, during remarks before the Mass.

“He really helped to serve others, to bring people together, to be a saint for everyone,” he added. “That’s what we’re celebrating today, coming together as different cultures and ethnicities, celebrating his feast.”

An estimated 325 people attended the liturgy, which included a multicultural choir which sang hymns with verses in English and Spanish.

A Dominican brother who lived from 1579 to 1639 in Lima, Peru, Martin de Porres was the son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed Panamanian slave of African descent.

In his homily, Archbishop Tobin talked about how Martin de Porres’ father abandoned the family when Martin was young, leading them to live in poverty. But instead of growing up bitter, Martin “gave his heart—and anything else that he had—to the poor and the despised.”

After working for a few years as an apprentice to a barber—who also served as a surgeon in those days—Martin was accepted as a lay helper in the Dominican order. After nine years, the community, impressed with his prayer life, humility and love, invited him to profess vows.

In his various ministries, Martin treated all people equally regardless of their ethnicity, race or social status, the archbishop said, which was not the norm in Lima where racism abounded at the time.

Each of us would do well to follow St. Martin’s unfailing spirit of service, Archbishop Tobin added.

“This feast reminds us that racism is a sin of the world that is everybody’s responsibility, but apparently, nobody’s fault,” he said. “One could hardly imagine a more fitting patron of Christian forgiveness and Christian justice than St. Martin de Porres.

“The spirit of St. Martin de Porres is the spirit of Jesus, the Most Holy Redeemer of the world.”

Elizabeth Malone, who has attended all the St. Martin de Porres liturgies since the annual gathering began in 2004, said she was impressed by the turnout for the Mass.

“I think this celebration brings people together. The wonderful life and story of St. Martin is an inspiration to all of us,” said Malone, a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis and the committee that plans the gathering. “The [annual] celebration continues to grow, and each parish brings something different to that, so I think that’s been really good.”

Malone also appreciated that St. Anthony Parish hosted this year’s liturgy.

“I think this is a parish that really celebrates this kind of feast. … It’s just the continuing appreciation of the diversity of our Church, and I think the message that the archbishop had was very much in support of that diversity.”

Like Malone, Brother Moises appreciated “seeing the fruits” of the celebration, and over the years “people developing the passion, the skills and the attitudes needed to live out what St. Martin has been an example for us to do—to really embrace and relate with each other.”

He also said Archbishop Tobin spoke beautifully about the wonderful gift of diversity in our local Church.

“He [Archbishop Tobin] has a great sense of what our Catholic Church is all about, this global Church, bringing people together and embracing diversity,” Brother Moises said. “He and the pope [Francis] remind us all the time, ‘It’s OK to be different. It’s not only OK, it’s beautiful to be different.’

“What I like is people really getting excited about the [St. Martin de Porres] celebration, about embracing the other.” †

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