St. Joseph Goes to KUJENGA

By Deacon Albert Anderson
Chairperson for the Black Catholic Ministry, Diocese of Arlington
St. Joseph of Alexandria, VA

From Friday, March 2nd to Sunday, March 4th, 2018 several members of the St. Joseph (Alexandria, VA) parish family, together with youth and elders from the Diocese of Richmond and Archdiocese of Baltimore, attended the annual KUJENGA Youth Retreat in Richmond, VA.

Kujenga is a Swahili word, meaning “to build“. Hosted by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond’s Office for Black Catholics/Asian Ministry, Pam Harris, Th.M., Director, the weekend-long experience, designed for rising freshmen through high school seniors, was ordered toward building Christ centered, family-oriented leadership skills for youth in the Black Catholic community. This was accomplished through a series of presentations, small group discussions, games and faith sharing.

The setting was the beautiful 150-acre campus of the Roslyn Conference & Retreat Center. With its peaceful rolling hills and beautiful trees, it was a perfect place for our young people to get away from the distractions of the secular world and focus on how to best use their God given talents to build up His kingdom.

All cell phones were collected Saturday morning, and, after some initial moaning and groaning, no one seemed to miss them! The day began with a wonderful breakfast (CHAKULA) in a spacious dining hall with high ceilings and lots of windows looking out over the hills and valleys. This was followed by KARIBU – Welcome and Orientation: safety briefing; rules of and expectations for the Retreat, given by Fr. Anthony Bozeman, S.S.J. and Pam Harris. A “Hand Up” rule was established whereby whenever Fr. Bozeman, Pam or one of the Elders raised his or her hand, everyone got quiet and focused their attention on whoever “had the floor”. It was a wonderful, fun and effective way to maintain focus on the speaker.

Family Elders were then introduced, and each young person was assigned to a “Family”. The Elders were responsible for: encouraging youth participation and attention during presentations and throughout the weekend; keeping all young people in their family involved during the exercises; asking leading questions posed by presenters and facilitators; encouraging family members to participate in prayer services and liturgy; and getting their “children” to and from the sessions on time. There were also Aunts and Uncles assigned for the weekend. Their responsibilities included: environment (Mass, prayer services, Karamu feast); setting up snacks; assisting with wake up/lights out, head counts.

Families were asked to choose a Swahili Family Name that suited their particular family charism. They were also asked to read and sign the Family Pledge and adhere to a strict Code of Conduct. Then, a family symbol was chosen, and each young person took part in drawing the symbol on a large poster board. It was suggested to add something that symbolizes Christ (cross, dove, church, etc.). A family member was chosen to state the family name, explain what the name meant and why it was selected. As each family proclaimed its name, a family member lit a candle on the family table.

There were interactive presentations given on each of the seven principles of the Nguzo Saba (African-American Catholic Principles and the seven principles of Kwanzaa). Before every presentation of a principle, one candle of the Kinara (Swahili for candle holder) was lit. At the end of that presentation, the candle was extinguished. Two family members from one family were chosen by table Elders for one of them to light the candle as the other reads the definition of the principle. The candles are placed three red on the left, three green on the right, and a single black candle in the center. Red symbolizes past, present and future suffering for dignity and freedom. Black symbolizes the people of African descent. Green symbolizes hope in people of African descent, self-hood, self-determination, and in the new creation and Third World of truth, justice, peace and freedom for all.

Mario Dance did a fantastic job as our leader of song for the praise and worship gatherings.

The presentations were:

  1. Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness – Devin Jones
  2. Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race – Ashley Dixon
  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together – Pam Harris
  4. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination):  To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. – Mario Dance
  5. Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it – Candra Parker
  6. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together – Chauntele Taylor
  7. Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in God, our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness – Deacon Al Anderson

One of the most powerfully poignant times of the weekend came during Family Dialogue Courageous Conversation in the Entire Family (Authentically Black and Catholic) “Girls to Boys – Boys to Girls – Women to Boys – Men to Girls”. The objective was to encourage the teens to explore their identity as male/female African American Catholics. I participated in one of the all-male sub sessions “Boys to Men”. The personal stories shared by the young men about the challenges they face with interpersonal relationships were truly eye-opening. I’ve been told that the “Girls to Women” session was equally moving.

Sunday began in the beautiful chapel, overlooking a lush green valley. The retreat concluded Sunday afternoon with a Commissioning / Sending Forth Service. Following are some reflections by the St. Joseph delegation:

Beverly Anderson: The weekend I spent as the “aunt” to over 30 young people was so inspiring. The friendships developed, sharing and the overall fellowship shown by the youth will last with me for years. We need more weekends for youth to come together and share their challenges and struggle. Maybe this will help reduce some of the violence we are seeing in our schools.
Phyllis Johnson: The Unity, Respect and Reciprocity was refreshing to see in our youth. I left the retreat knowing our world is in capable hands. Young men and women ready for the challenges ahead!
Anthony Johnson: I served as an Elder and I could not have been [more] proud of my family.  As it turned out, I had one son and five daughters. This is significant because in my own family upbringing I had six older sisters to guide and shape me.  My focus was on the son but his sisters expressed and showed so much love – I simply watched and observed as a proud parent would.  They helped one another and their social and play demands were such that no one was excluded.  I was impressed at how well they did ‘across’ the age gap and without ‘technology’.  They thrived and formed lasting friendships – that I continue to hear them speak of well after KUJENGA.  Reports from my family’s actual parents are extremely positive and enriching – as I have been stopped after masses and given so much positive feedback!  I witnessed great leadership at KUJENGA and it has continued back at the parish!
Cameron Hubbard: I got a chance to meet new people. And I enjoyed my new family because I couldn’t believe I had 5 sisters, which had me laughing because I really do have 5 sisters so I knew I was in for it. Learning how to be a leader and helping the community was awesome. I was happy that we made bags with soap, snacks, deodorant, toothpaste and all kinds of things to give to the needy. It made me feel good to help others. And being able to talk about the problems that we as African American Males face was very helpful. Being able to show a new altar sever what Mr. Anthony taught me really made me feel (good) to show ‘n teach my best so that the Lord and Mr. Anthony would be proud of me. And getting a chance to bond with the other altar brothers from our Church was cool. The way the church was designed I will never forget because it was beautiful and different in the way it was built. I enjoyed the trip; it was a learning experience I will never forget!
I thank GOD I was chosen to go on this trip.
Jai Thompson: I really enjoyed the KUJENGA retreat.  It was nice to interact with other Black Catholic teens my age.  Learning about the Black priests and saints was very interesting, and I liked the activities.  I look forward to attending again in the future.  The food was delicious!
Kim Thompsom: KUJENGA was an amazing experience. I met many other Black Catholics and learned so much about African American Catholic history. It is an excellent environment to be in. I enjoyed my time at KUJENGA.
Mone` Williams: Kujenga was a great experience as Black Catholic youth. It showed us as teens and individuals that there are more people like us in this world than we realize and that we have to stick together to make sure this world is a better place for everyone. We all got to fellowship and become good friends outside of Kujenga. Personally, I am on FaceTime with one of the girls almost every day and have texting group chats with most of the teens from Baltimore. Overall, Kujenga was a very fun experience and I hope to be able to go back next year.

Yours in Christ,
Deacon Al

*Original post edited for length and clarity
Photos taken by Phyllis Johnson

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

Filipino Catholics of Arlington Support Students in Need

By Chiqui Sanchez
Fil/Am Community Ministry, Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church

Through our community outreach program, one goal that the Fil/Am Catholic ministry of Our Lady of Good Counsel had been aiming for since its inception was to provide a Filipino student a college scholarship.  Always known to us was the fact that college costs for many of those living in poverty in the Philippines has always been extremely out of reach.  For just a few hundred US dollars a year, we knew we could provide the opportunity for some of our impoverished youth in the Philippines to access a college education.

 

In our continuous search on how this can be achieved, we finally got the opportunity. In March 2016, YSLEP (Youth Servant Leadership and Education Program) through Caritas Manila, was introduced to us by Rev Father Patrick Posey, Pastor at St. James Parish in Falls Church, Virginia who travels to different parts of the world on behalf of the Pontifical Mission Society, Mr. Mike Mele, a Catholic faithful who travels with Fr. Posey, and Ms. Corinne Monogue, Director of the Offices of Multicultural Ministries in the Diocese of Arlington. The three of them traveled to the Philippines in February 2016 and saw for themselves, firsthand, what Caritas Manila and YSLEP were all about. The Fil/Am Community Ministry based at Our Lady of Good Counsel (OLGC) parish invited them to make a presentation to us about YSLEP and Caritas Manila, and as we were informed, they made the presentation to us much in the same way as Caritas Manila presented the program to them when they were in the Philippines.

The program was presented to us far beyond our expectations and we from the Fil/Am Community Ministry were convinced that the scholarship of an impoverished student through YSLEP / Caritas Manila was an initiative that we could take on as one of our advocacies. In faith, we further believed that the Holy Spirit led us to these three individuals for guidance in reinforcing and firming up our intent to take on a scholarship program that has long been in our plans. Our meeting with them concretized our long-time goal to be able to support students in the Philippines.

At this time, we turned to Caritas Manila to break the ground for us and get us to a running start to achieve our goal. Caritas, in turn, obliged us with the logistics on how we could initiate the sponsorship, one student at a time: Caritas gave us what we needed to know, what we needed to do, what information we needed to provide them, and what the entire program entailed that we should know about.

Through our contact with Caritas Manila, our OLGC-based Fil/Am Community Ministry launched our scholarship program in June 2016. Leobert Francisco from Basilan, Isabela in the southern part of the Philippines became our first YSLEP scholar. Leobert belongs to a family whose only source of income is from his father who works as a laborer and an Aunt living with them who is a local market vendor. Leobert has a younger sister who is not yet of school age. Leobert was in his 2nd year of studies in Education at the Claret College when we started supporting him, and we will see him through until he gets his degree in 2019. He hopes to get a job as a secondary school teacher upon his graduation from college.

In 2017, we got a second scholar. Claudine Diaton from the Ifugao region in the northern part of the Philippines belongs to a family comprised of her father who is a rice farmer, her mother, a housekeeper, an older brother who works as a security guard and a sister struggling through her first year in college. Claudine was a rising junior in the Ifugao State University majoring in Agriculture, when we started supporting her. She is expected to finish her Bachelor’s Degree in June 2018, and hopefully, she will find a job after graduation, to help support her family. The Fil/Am Community Ministry will be in a position this coming June to get another scholar through Caritas Manila. We have been in contact with Caritas Manila to give us a list of at least 3 students pursuing a career in Education to choose from. We very much look forward to meet our 3rd scholar.

With our fundraising initiatives that we continue to pursue, with the unfailing moral and spiritual support from our Pastor and staff at OLGC, and the untiring effort from the members of our ministry, God willing, we will be able to sponsor more students who are in need through Caritas Manila. We feel blessed that we have been given this golden opportunity to serve and we are deeply grateful that we are able to make a difference in the lives of some of our own.

Holy Family Catholic Church Celebrates Black History

By Emelda August

Our Black History Mass and Potluck Dinner on Saturday, February 24 was a big success. Deacon Gerard-Marie Anthony got a big “Holy Family-welcome-back-home” with a large congregation present for the Mass. Father Bill was in attendance also, for his first Black History Program as our new Priest.

Comments after the service were all very positive stating, “He gave a wonderful homily” and “He did a great job explaining and sharing the great accomplishments of three African Americans into the readings and Gospel.” He highlighted the life and contributions of Servants of God Mother Mary Lange, Rev. Augustine Tolton, and Venerable Pierre Toussaint. They all sacrificed a lot while always obeying God and continuing to do good work. They all made a big impact on the Black community and Church.

St. Joseph’s Gospel Choir supplied beautiful music for the Mass and was enjoyed by all.

After Mass, we held our Annual Potluck Dinner in Fr. Griffin Hall. Deacon Anthony got a chance to meet and greet fellow parishioners who had a chance to talk and share dinner together.

Those in attendance were also able to learn about the Mother of Africa Chapel, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, with a poster that showcased pictures and interesting facts and articles about the significance of all the design elements. 

Praying for Vocations with the St. Therese Society

By Rose Mensah

St. Therese Vocation Society of the Diocese of Arlington held their annual Morning of Reflection to which all were invited, on Saturday February 3, 2018, at St Luke Catholic Church in McLean, Virginia.  About ten members of St Therese’s Society of the Ghana Catholic Community attended the program.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The program started with a nine o’clock morning Mass celebrated by Fr. Anthony Pinizzotto of St. Luke’s parish of McLean, Virginia.  Rev. Fr. Jaffe, Director of Vocations for the Diocese was also in attendance. After Mass, Fr. Jaffe welcomed the attendees, and thanked them for their prayers. A continental breakfast of assorted baked goods, fruits and drinks were served.

The speaker of the conference, Fr.  Anthony Pinizzotto, talked about the importance of prayer, and that prayer should take us out of ourselves in order to serve others.  In his power point presentation, he suggested some ways of promoting vocations in our schools, parishes and in our communities.  Some suggestions were talking to the young kids about vocations during Religious Education Classes and giving encouragement. Also praying for those who are already priests, letting them know that you are praying for them; writing to them, letting them know how you appreciate them bringing us the Sacraments to nourish us and sustain us.

The conference ended with Holy Hour, but before the Holy Hour, St. Therese Society group from the Ghana Community of the Diocese prepared the attendees with songs of praise.

theresa2

St. Therese Society of the Ghana Community of Arlington Diocese is going to take action on two things in Fr. Pinizzotto’s presentation: to pray each day for the person listed on the calendar, including the spiritual director of our community, and for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.  Secondly, the group is going to adopt a seminary in Ghana, and get the youth and children of the community to adopt a seminarian from that seminary and correspond with the seminarian.  The group is going to fund the correspondence project.

Prayer for Vocations

God our Father, through the Immaculate
Heart of Mary, I ask You to bless and
Strengthen the spiritual renewal and vitality
Of all priests, and consecrated religious so
That Your Church may shine with greater
Splendor and bear witness to Your presence
In our world today.  Please inspire many men
And women to respond to Your Son’s call to “Come, follow Me”.
I ask this in Jesus’ Name.

Amen

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Black Catholic Day of Reflection and Unity Mass

One highlight of Black Catholic History Month came during the Annual Day of Reflection and Unity Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Vienna, Virginia on November 18, 2017.

The Day of Reflection began with reflections on the experiences had by those who attended the National Black Catholic Congress XII. Next, Msgr. Ray East, Archdiocese of Washington gave the keynote address on missionary discipleship. Bishop Michael Burbidge, Diocese of Arlington, presented the Father Augustus Tolton and Mother Mary Lange award to this year’s recipient, Cecilia Braveboy. Prior to the Mass, there was a Praise and Worship session featuring Gospel hymns such as “Break Every Chain” by Will Reagan, and “I Give Myself Away” by William McDowell. Mass began at 5:00 p.m. and was celebrated by Bishop Roy E. Campbell, Jr, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington. Bishop Campbell was also the homilist. After the Mass a reception was held where everyone enjoyed great food and company.

Take a look at the great pictures taken at the Day of Reflection!

Photos Courtesy of Anthony Johnson

Celebrating Black Catholic History Month

Every November, Black Catholic History Month in celebrated across the nation. The Diocese of Arlington, through the Black Catholic Ministry, makes a special effort to recognize and celebrate this month. In Fredericksburg, Virginia, St. Jude Catholic Church honors the month annually with a special Mass celebration. Said Belinda Mattos, who helped organize this year’s celebration:

The Mass went extremely well. We had a great turnout and everyone loved the Ghanaian choir…

On Saturday, November 4, St. Jude Catholic Church in Fredericksburg held its 5th annual commemoration of Black Catholic History Month during the 5:00 pm vigil Mass. Deacon Al Anderson, of St Joseph Catholic Church-Alexandria, assisted the celebrant and St. Jude pastor, Father James Hudgins, and served as the homilist. Deacon Anderson gave a powerful homily carrying the message of humility from the readings and the gospel. The congregation was invited to a reception and Black Catholic History displays after the Mass. St. Jude Catholic Church holds this commemoration at the 5:00pm vigil Mass on the first Saturday of November each year.

Photos Courtesy of Phyllis Johnson

The Challenge is to Silence the Mind

By Deacon Al Anderson, Jr. & Ed Jones

We recently attended the 14th annual National Black Catholic Men’s Conference, held in Miami, FL October 5th – 8th. The conference is presented each year by the Bowman Francis Ministry Project, under the leadership of three Society of Divine Word (SVD) priests: twins Reverend Charles and Chester Smith SVD, and Reverend Rev Ken Hamilton SVD

In answer to the question” Why a Black Catholic Men’s Conference?” the brochure states “We are committed Black men, principally Catholic, who recognize our need for God’s help! We gather in Christ’s presence in an atmosphere of trust, equality and anonymity, to share personal feelings and experiences. We unconditionally accept one another and prayerfully support one another. We feel encouraged by the Holy Spirit to share with one another….. Men to Men!”

The theme of this year’s gathering was “The Challenge is to Silence the Mind”. The goal was to provide a holistic and healthy approach to rid ourselves of the negative “noise” (i.e. self-doubt, low self-esteem, rage, etc.) that inhibits us from successfully contending with the psychological and spiritual warfare that many African American men and boys face in today’s society; to provide tools for effectively dealing with pervasive violence, drugs and mass incarceration.

Fr. Sydney Speaks gave very powerful reflection titled “Authority is in the Air”, at the opening session on Thursday evening. He reminded us that true authority comes only from God and those in positions of authority should use it with a servant’s mentality; glorifying God, rather than themselves. Fr. Sydney also exhorted us to not shy away from the authority that we have been given but to eagerly embrace it; while constantly praying for God’s wisdom and seeking the counsel of our brothers and sisters. He has a very active youth ministry and was the primary speaker at the various youth tracts that were presented at the conference.

Fr. Sydney Speaks

Fr. Sydney Speaks

Each day began with Praise and Worship, led by the dynamic Gospel music group Men in the Fire. Afterwards, there were many excellent workshops and keynote addresses on a wide range of topics including: “The History of Black Catholicism”, by Fr. George Kinitba; “Urban Education in the Black Community” by Dr. Donald Edwards, Ed.D; “All Green/and No Black-Environmental Activism is Social Justice Activism” by Dr. Griena Knight-Davis, LPC; and many, many more (Too many to list here)!

We attended several very good workshops. One that particularly impressed me was titled “The Stigma Associated with African American Male Incarceration” by Dr. Wylie Tidwell, PhD. Dr. Tidwell outlined several root causes, historical and current, of Mass Incarceration in the African American community:

  • Reconstruction after slavery – the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery except as punishment for a crime. Reconstruction also gave birth to Jim Crow laws.
  • Lack of Civic Participation – Placing of barriers, such as gerrymandering, designed to exclude Black folks from participation in the political process.
  • Breakdown of Black Families and Communities
  • Deformation of the Black Church and the rise of impersonal / cold mega churches.

The workshop “Where are all the Black Men”, presented by Msgr. Fredrico Britto addressed concerns faced by many churches regarding male absence from the congregation and church activities.  The presenter stated that the average Black Church is made up of 75% female and 75% elders, which posed the question, “what happened to them?” This spawned a lively and interesting open discussion on possible reasons that may have brought about the lack of participation.  The suggested list of reasons was endless but very insightful and enlightening.   Some suggested approaches to getting them back involved included:

  • Men need to hear other men witness to them about the goodness of Jesus
  • Have men to men support groups that include prayer, Bible study, Men’s Day Program and service to the church
  • Ask them for their help (using their professional skills)
  • Mentoring program, Rites of Passage program

The closing Mass for the Conference was held on Saturday evening at the Notre Dame d’Haiti Mission in the heart of Miami’s “Little Haiti”. Bishop Burchell McPherson, a former pastor of the parish (for 18 yrs.) was the celebrant for the Mass. Concelebrating were many African American and African priest from around the country. Fr. Stephen Brown, SVD gave a rousing homily on the conference theme of “The Challenge is to Silence the Mind”. Men in the Fire provided the music ministry for the Mass. The conference ended on Sunday morning with a Healing and Commissioning Service led by Fr. Hamilton.

We have attended several of these conferences in the past and have always come back renewed and refreshed in the Spirit and given much information and counsel on how to better serve my own diaconal ministry. We look forward to next year!

My Roman Rite

Written by: Daniel Rice, Seminarian

This summer I have had a great deal of exposure to a vast range of cultural traditions, especially with regard to the way in which a large diversity of cultures worship God within His One Church. I have met many people of great joy and devotion to our Lord, people whose differences are good to experience. Yet they are also people whose differences are not as great as their similarities, for we all share one human nature and, on an even deeper and more profound level, are adopted sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. How amazing that, as baptized Christians, we can call God our Father, Abba (loosely translated: dad), through the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us. In the words of St. John the Beloved and Evangelist, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). Truly, we are all one in Christ.

Seal of Office of Multicultural Ministries.jpeg

This summer has been a fruitful one. I hope that my testimony of vocation has been beneficial for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I know that the experiences I have shared with them have been fruitful for me. One profound way in which this was so is that their various cultural traditions have made me reflect upon my own and grow in my love for it. I am an English-speaking Roman Rite Catholic, and what a blessing to be one! I love the English language, the Roman Rite Mass, and the unique spirituality and spiritualities of Western Catholicism. God has indeed set my heart aflame for the beauty, goodness, and truth of Himself, the Catholic faith, and the Roman tradition.

One amazing part of our liturgical tradition is our amazing sacred music. Our vast array of sung music ranges all the way from Latin chant to English hymnody. One piece of music in particular caught my attention this summer: If Ye Love Me, by Thomas Tallis, a 16th century English composer. I invite you to find the best speakers you can, follow the link, sit back, and listen to this amazing piece of music, reading along with the lyrics:

“If ye love me, keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may ‘bide with you forever, e’en the spirit of truth.” (John 14:15–17)

During my third time listening to this in the office, Kelvin gave me a look and said, “Is that you [playing the music]?” I replied, “Yeah.” He added, “Oh, I thought the angels were coming to get me.”

That’s it right there. This piece of music and so many more draw the heart, mind, and soul to their Creator. Their beauty is apparent, but is not their own. Borrowing several words of St. Augustine, “Their beauty is their confession of God.” They are expressive and formative, giving voice and elegance to our prayer to God as well as teaching us about God. After all, the words in Tallis’ piece are from scripture; they are the words of Christ Himself.

20170511_155123.jpg

Mural of (top to bottom) Christ the High Priest, the virtues, several Saints, and the minor orders.  St. Turibius Chapel at the Pontifical College Josephinum.

We also see this beauty in our sacred art and architecture. Seminarians of the Pontifical College Josephinum, the first time they walked into the newly completed St. Turibius chapel, said that it was as if they “had stumbled into paradise.” I was blessed to complete my four years at the Josephinum by seeing the restoration, renovation, and re-dedication of that chapel. It did indeed seem like a sort of paradise, and all of the art intentionally drew the connection between the sacred space, the Mass, and Heaven. It is upon the altars of the Church that we are united to the Pascal mystery and sacrifice of Christ. It is upon the altars of the Church that Heaven and Earth kiss.

There is much more to my cultural tradition than its music, art, and architecture. I feel at home in the structure, prayers, smells, dress, and actions of our liturgy. I experience the words of Scott Hahn, who named one of his books, Rome Sweet Home. Hopefully we may each begin to plumb the depths of the rich faith that has been handed down to us, each through our own cultural traditions.

Thank you to the Office of Multicultural Ministries and all who welcomed me into their communities this summer.

Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.

Our Lady of Lavang

Written by: Daniel Rice, Seminarian

On August 5, I went to Saint Veronica’s for Mass with Our Lady of LaVang Catholic Vietnamese Community. I was able to serve at the Mass, and the five altar servers guided me with regard to the particular way of serving in that sanctuary. This was quite helpful, for while every sanctuary ought to have the same key features and some similar qualities, each has its own particular character.

20170808_125827.jpg

Written in gold half way up the sanctuary wall: “Consider how Veronica saw Him so afflicted and attended and wiped His most holy face.”

At the end of Mass, Father let me speak for a minute or two. I encouraged all present to entrust their vocation to Mary, and (after the inspiration of Pope St. John Paul II) not to be afraid to open wide the doors of their heart to Christ, not to be afraid to follow him on the amazing adventure He has planned for them, not to be afraid to become who they were made to be. After all, God doesn’t just make a person and then draw a blueprint for his life, telling him to follow the directions. Rather, God’s Will, which is Love and Mercy itself, is written on our hearts, is inscribed into our very being. That is the vocation, the calling, that we discover. Your vocation is not what you do, but who you are.

Our Lady of LaVang, pray for us.

Salvador del Mundo

Written by: Daniel Rice, Seminarian

20170806_154046.jpg

On August 6, I went to Holy Family Parish in Dale City for Mass. While the Mass itself was for the feast of the Transfiguration (as in the rest of the diocese), the liturgy was also commemorating the feast of Salvador del Mundo, the Savior of the World. The Hispanic congregation there at Mass was almost entirely El Salvadorian, for this is their patronal feast, as is evident from the name. The Mass was even celebrated by an El Salvadorian bishop!

I had the privilege of serving at the Mass, and afterward there was a small festival behind the church. I saw several of my coworkers from the Apostolado Hispano Office, who took me around to different food stands to give me hefty samplings of authentic El Salvadorean food: pupusas, tacos, empanadas, yucca, and a special fruit drink of which I forget the name–but not the taste!

20170806_154130.jpgAt this festival, there was a small tournament as well. One by one, young men on bicycles rode as fast as they could underneath a rope that hung across the street. Each one held a small wooden pike, which he would attempt to pike through a small, metal ring above his head as he rode by. Each successful spearing was rewarded with a small amount of cash. This whole competition was reminiscent of Medieval tournaments in which gallant knights in full suits of armor would use their jousting lances to accomplish similar feats, for rewards of various kinds, but most especially for glory. They rode not on bicycles, but on what the bicycles were meant to imitate: caballos, horses.

Let every man imitate the virtues of noble knights, among them valor, chivalry, honor, selflessness, sacrifice, loyalty, and piety, always fighting to protect the well-being and dignity of all, especially the poor and the the weak. Let every woman imitate the virtues of noble ladies, among them gentleness, inspiration, love, true and interior beauty, dignity, inner strength, and devotion, always caring for those in need. All those old, made up stories we heard as children may contain more truth, virtue, and goodness then they at first seemed to possess.

¡Salvador del Mundo, ten piedad de nosotros! Savior of the World, have mercy on us!