by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, February 2018) Hundreds of people filled St. Michael’s Church on Scranton Road on Sunday, January 14th, as the Cleveland Catholic Diocese joined with Catholic dioceses throughout the world in the celebration of the 2018 World Day of Immigrants, Migrants and Refugees. Bishop Nelson Perez celebrated the mass, where those in attendance were invited by St. Michael’s Parish, to pray with “Pope Francis and the Universal Church for all those people who have been forced from their homelands by violence and are seeking a home and safety.” The invitation to the mass also said prayers would also be “for those countries and groups that are providing welcome for these immigrant, migrant and refugee communities.”
People attending the mass were encouraged to wear traditional clothing, and come together as members of the church to celebrate, as one family, with a mass followed by a reception with food, music and dance in the church hall. The mass included Prayers of the Faithful read in the Language of the Ukraine; Quechua from Peru; French from the Congo; Krabn from Liberia; Spanish; and English. The entrance procession featured people dressed in colorful traditional dress of their culture and the offertory reception featured gifts of food and other items representing various cultures. The mass also featured music and dance from a variety of cultures.
Bishop Perez said, “When it comes to the church, the church has no borders.” He then asked those attending the mass to stand to represent the continent from whence their family came. All the continents of the world were represented at the mass. Bishop Perez said, “Unless you are an American Indian, you came from someplace else.”
Emphasizing the nature of the Catholic Church as a community without borders, Bishop Perez said, “We each bring our own gifts, customs, food, language, etc. as we gather about the table of the Lord where all are welcome. You cannot build a wall abound that table, because Christ has no borders.”
Bishop Perez noted throughout history, human beings have always been on the move. He recalled the Christmas Story of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem and then fleeing to the country of Egypt with the child, Jesus. He then cited some statistics concerning the millions of people who have had to leave their homes or their countries in recent years.
Bishop Perez reminded those in the church that “every stranger is an opportunity to an encounter with Jesus Christ.” He shared a message from Pope Francis asking Catholics to welcome, protect, promote and integrate immigrants, migrants and refugees into their communities. “The truth is the Catholic Church is a community of communities, but we are one family,” said Bishop Perez.
At the end of the Mass, Sister Rita Mary Harwood of the Parish Life Office thanked St. Michael’s Pastor, Father Mark Riley, and the St. Michael Parish Community for hosting and helping with the planning of the event. All those in attendance were invited to a reception following the mass.
The reception at St. Michael’s Gruss Hall featured foods from a variety of cultures as well as music and dance coordinated by Master of Ceremonies Carlos Diaz. Dancers and musicians performing represented cultures such as Puerto Rican, Spanish, Hungarian, and Peruvian.