Asian Catholic Unity Day Brings Many Cultures Together in Faith

“Bagi kita semua yang berkumpul di sini, dengan diilhami oleh Roh Kudus, kita pergi ke lingkungan sekitar kita untuk menyebarluaskan perdamaian dan kesatuan di dalam keluarga, gereja dan masyarakat sekitar kita.” (For all of us gathered here, that inspired by the Holy Spirit, we go out to our communities to promote peace and unity in our families, church and communities) - Indonesian Prayer of the Faithful petition
MERRILLVILLE – Bishop Robert J. McClory welcomed the faithful from a variety of cultures and traditions to the annual Asian Catholic Unity Day Mass hosted by the Diocese of Gary on Oct. 23 at Our Lady of Consolation.

“We know that the Lord calls us from many places … from wherever we come, may we be together to encourage each other, brothers and sisters from around the world looking forward to the house of God,” said the bishop.

Sponsored by the diocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry and supported by the Filipino Professional Association and the Filipino Nurses Association, a highlight of the Mass was the Prayer of the Faithful, which saw seven Asian-Americans (Dr. Danny Sardon, Dr. Ferdi Ramos, Joseph Hoang, Perla Garcia, Luis Laus, Mindy Carley and Sisca Stewart) each present a petition in their native language – Filipino/Tagalog, Hindi, Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino/Ilongo and Indonesian.

In his homily, Bishop McClory compared the race that St. Paul spoke about in the scripture reading to Timothy – “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” – to the origins of the steeplechase. “The runners would look at the steeple of the church and run toward it – the home of the people of God – through streams and rivers and over obstacles,” explained the bishop.

“If we think of the Church as our eternal destination, having a home in God’s house for the rest of our lives, it is a beautiful image. One day in God’s house is better than a thousand days on Earth,” he said. “In today’s reading, Paul talks about the race: ‘I’m not there yet, but I’m looking forward.’

“It is a valedictory address: ‘I’m already being poured out, like a libation.’ He’s running his own steeplechase to the house of God.”

The bishop pointed out that Paul was speaking “to the Gentiles, not just the Jews, not the chosen people. Jesus was extending this message to all people, as St. Paul ministered to all people. On Asian Catholic Unity Day, we are pointed toward the steeple. (While) we came from different places, different backgrounds, different cultures and traditions, with different ways to express our faith, yet together we have our eyes fixed on that same steeple.

“Many things hold us back, maybe pride, like with the Pharisee in today’s Gospel (Luke 18: 9-14) … We need to turn to the Lord.

“None of us are in good enough shape to finish the race (on our own); we need Jesus to lift us up, and he is there,” assured Bishop McClory.

“This is the only event like this,” said Rudy Banzon, a parishioner at St. Michael in Schererville who came to the U.S. from Manila, Philippines, after college. “So it was a long time ago,” he added with a smile. “This Unity Day liturgy is for all the cultures, reflected in the songs and the words. I come every year; it gives me an appreciation for other Asian cultures.”

Renan Garcia, of Schererville, a parishioner at St. Joseph in Dyer and incoming president of the Filipino Professional Association, said the “main purpose of this day is to unify all Christians. It feels good; you are all different but able to relate to other people in terms of your faith.

“This (observance) helps us to understand other people and dispel preconceived notions we may have. We learn to appreciate each other’s culture and food,” added Garcia and he helped his wife, Perla Garcia, serve an array of Filipino and American foods during a luncheon after the Mass.

Joy Kaanookaden, of Indian descent, and his girlfriend Kelsey Morgan, attend Mass every Sunday at Our Lady of Consolation, but did not realize Asian Catholic Unity Day was being celebrated until they stepped into the church. “It’s nice to see the different cultures coming together,” said Kaanookaden as the couple stood in the buffet line. “We wanted to see what it is all about,” added Morgan of the luncheon.

Lynn Tabion, a parishioner at St. Thomas More in Munster and the wife of Senior Deacon Napoleon Tabion, who served at Mass, said “having this unity among the Asian people, as well as other countries, makes Asian Catholic Unity Day valuable. We like to have others learn about our traditions and food. We love the music; it’s a nice way to praise God.”

Fran Merrion, a parishioner at Notre Dame in Michigan City of Irish descent, attended with her husband Ed Merrion at the invitation of his best friend, Dr. Danny Sardon. “The music stood out, and having the bishop celebrate the Mass,” she said. This kind of event is important because it shows we are all one family.”