December 11, 2015

Diversity of Church on display at annual St. Martin de Porres Mass

Marilou Eria, center, a native of the Philippines and now a member of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, shares a quiet moment of devotion before a banner depicting St. Martin de Porres on Nov. 3. A Mass honoring the saint was celebrated that evening at St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis. (Submitted photo by Victoria Arthur)

Marilou Eria, center, a native of the Philippines and now a member of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, shares a quiet moment of devotion before a banner depicting St. Martin de Porres on Nov. 3. A Mass honoring the saint was celebrated that evening at St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis. (Submitted photo by Victoria Arthur)

By Victoria Arthur (Special to The Criterion)

At a recent Mass on the south side of Indianapolis, Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez came full circle.

One of his first assignments with the archdiocese years ago had been orchestrating the feast day Mass for St. Martin de Porres, a man known for bringing people of different cultures together.

Now, after dedicating the last five years to the same purpose, Brother Moises found himself at another St. Martin de Porres Mass, surrounded by a diverse group of grateful Catholics from across the archdiocese.

“This Mass helps us to find the beauty of all the different cultures in our archdiocese,” Brother Moises said moments before the vibrant Nov. 3 liturgy celebrated at St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis. “I love celebrating this beautiful feast that brings all people together. It’s at a different parish every year, and I still get excited about it.”

But that marked the final St. Martin de Porres Mass for Brother Moises, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Intercultural Ministry, before he leaves Indianapolis to embark on earning a doctorate at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.

Father Todd Riebe, one of the concelebrants of the Mass and pastor of St. Mark Parish, took the opportunity to thank Brother Moises for all he has done for the many ethnic groups that call the archdiocese home.

At St. Mark alone, there is a rapidly growing Burmese community, which Father Riebe calls “a great blessing.” The overall minority population of the school is nearing 40 percent, and the newcomers are welcomed with open arms by longtime parishioners.

“How right it is to thank this man of amazing energy and imagination,” Father Riebe said of Brother Moises to those gathered for the St. Martin de Porres liturgy.

In his homily, he also introduced the congregation to the saint whose feast day was being celebrated—a man who, like Brother Moises, dedicated his life to mutual understanding and appreciation of all cultures.

St. Martin de Porres was born in Lima, Peru, in 1579, the illegitimate son of a Spanish knight and a freed African slave. He grew up in poverty and struggled with the stigma of being of mixed race in a time of great prejudice. But he showed great compassion for all people, no matter their race or background, Father Riebe said.

He began working with Dominican friars in the city at age 15, and eventually ran their infirmary, where he lovingly cared for the sick and the dying. This included Africans, who had just endured the most inhumane conditions aboard slave ships.

By the time of his death in 1639, his holiness was well known, Father Riebe explained. St. Martin de Porres was canonized in 1962 by St. John XXIII, and is the patron of people of mixed race and those who work for social justice.

“We call St. Martin de Porres a saint for everyone,” Brother Moises said. “This Mass began [in the archdiocese] 12 or 13 years ago as an opportunity to bring African-Americans and Hispanics together. That was the initial intention, as St. Martin de Porres was black and Hispanic. Now we take it a little further, bringing all cultures and ethnicities together.”

The Mass at St. Mark drew a cross-section of people from throughout the archdiocese, including Africans and African-Americans, Hispanics, Filipinos, Burmese, Vietnamese, Koreans and others. Readings and hymns were delivered in multiple languages. And after the Mass, many of the faithful approached the altar to touch the commemorative banner depicting St. Martin de Porres.

At the reception that followed, attendees had the chance to sample a vast array of ethnic foods.

“The more opportunities we offer Catholics to come together, the more we witness the beauty and the goodness of diversity,” Brother Moises said. “How great that we can use role models, such as St. Martin, who have taught us throughout history that communion is possible, that unity in diversity is possible, and that it is our call as Catholics.”

Before the Mass, Brother Moises reflected on the time between his first St. Martin de Porres Mass in the archdiocese, and this, his last one.

“I have been in the archdiocese five and a half years, and I have loved every minute,” he said. “It’s been a great time for growth for me.

“This experience has helped me to become a better person and a better minister. I can only be grateful to God, to the archdiocese and to all the people I have encountered during all these years.”
 

(Victoria Arthur is a freelance writer and a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg.)

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!