The Blessing of Unity in Multicultural Diversity

As the Second Vatican Council affirms, “All men are called to belong to the new people of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages, so that the decree of God’s will may be fulfilled” (Lumen Gentium, 13).

During the visit of Pope Francis two years ago, the ethnic diversity of this Church was on display for all to see as people from every nationality and background joined together joyously to pray in unity with our Holy Father. Yet, this same multicultural diversity is also lived every day in the Church of Washington.  You need only attend Mass – which is celebrated in more than 20 languages here – to see how faithful the Church has been in making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).

We are a Church woven into a beautiful tapestry of people which provides invaluable witness to the world.  As an example of this diversity, on Sunday there will be a Mass in celebration of 25th anniversary of Our Mother of Africa chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  Within this sanctuary is recounted the story of the journey from slavery to freedom, and the place that faith in God and devotion in the Blessed Mother, our protector and intercessor, have had in particular for those who trace their ancestors back to Africa.

On October 2-4, a number of parishes with large African-American communities will come together for the 28th Annual East of the River Revival to share the joy of the Gospel. This gathering will be preceded by a youth rally on September 30.  Through prayer, preaching, praise and worship, especially entering into the deepest unity through the celebration of the Eucharist, this portion of the one Church in our midst will bear witness to the revival’s theme:  Where there is light, there is hope!

These events are also an opportunity for us all to celebrate that African-Americans have always been part of the story of this local Church. Particularly in their struggles for freedom and civil rights during those shameful periods of history, in faith they found a hope that sustained them and they found a community capable – with God’s mercy – to transform sin to grace and division to unity.

The cultural diversity of this archdiocese is also expressed all year round with festivals and celebrations focusing on our Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Polish, Vietnamese communities to name some significant examples.  This diversity is experienced in unity as a single people in the family of God. Such witness is now more than ever needed for the wider community. It is a lived example of how people in the multiplicity of various cultures and backgrounds can come together not just in what we hold in common, but also in appreciation of what makes us different.  The experience of unity and diversity points to a God whose image and likeness cannot be captured in “one form.”  Like our Triune God, we are meant to a communion of persons, living in diversity, many as one.