Asian Catholics gather for annual community Mass

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Asian Catholics gather for annual community Mass

Cardinal Cupich presided over the fifth Asian Community Mass at St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish at St. Barbara Church on Aug. 27, 2023. The Mass, hosted in partnership with the Asian Catholic Initiative of the Archdiocese of Chicago, celebrated the multicultural diversity of the archdiocese and offered Asian Catholics the opportunity to gather with Cardinal Cupich to honor the Virgin Mary who is particularly revered among Asian Catholics. Prayers of the Faithful were offered in Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese and Indonesian languages. Five different choirs sang in their native Filipino, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian and English languages. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A holy water font pictured in the back of the church. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Tirso Villaverde, pastor of St. Julie Billiart in Tinley Park, and Father RG Cagbabanua RCJ, pastor of St Donatus Parish in Blue Island, walk together in the opening procession. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Worshippers greet Cardinal Cupich as he processes. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Far left, Father Francis Li, pastor of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish, joins Cardinal Cupich in the opening prayer. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Servers smile as Cardinal Cupich delivers the homily. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Members of one of the choirs listen to the Prayers of the Faithful that were offered in Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese and Indonesian languages. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Joy Rose Chen and her sister Kaley Mary Chen bring up the gifts to Cardinal Cupich. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Members of the Catholic Indonesian Community pray during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Joined by visiting priests at the altar, Cardinal Cupich leads the Our Father. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Two angel statues and holy water fonts anchor the back of church as Cardinal Cupich concelebrates the Eucharistic Prayer with priests. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Tu Jin Paul Kim from the Korean Martyrs Catholic Center, 4115 N. Kedvale Ave., distributes Communion during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Members of the Filipino choir sing during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Servers process out of church after Mass. All were headed for a feast of different Asian dishes. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Members of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Asian Catholic communities gathered Aug. 27 to celebrate together at the annual Asian Catholic Initiative Mass at St. Barbara Church of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish, 2859 S. Throop St.

Cardinal Cupich celebrated the Mass, which included hymns in Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, Indonesian and Mandarin. Members of the different communities, many wearing traditional dress, participated by reading, leading the prayers of the faithful, bringing up the gifts and singing in the five choirs that provided music.

Incarnation Sister Tho Trinh said she enjoyed seeing all of the communities come together and hearing all the languages used in prayer.

“For me, I heard only one language, the language of love,” said Sister Tho, who is from Vietnam and is studying English at Loyola University Chicago. “The language of love that I am hearing is the language of God.”

Cynthia Mennella, a member of the Paguyaban Warga Katolik (Indonesian Catholic Community) at St. Mother Teresa Parish, said it’s good for Asian Catholics to come together and see the diversity that exists in the archdiocese.

“This is a special time for us,” Mennella said. “There are a lot of Asian cultures, and it’s very seldom we see them all together. Usually we go to the Indonesian Mass, and so forth.

“It’s like the United Nations,” said Felicia Kristanto, also a member of the Indonesian community at St. Mother Teresa.

In his homily, Cardinal Cupich spoke about how Pope Francis has emphasized that the church needs members from all of its communities to share their experiences of God.

“We should listen to the voices of people of different cultures or races or backgrounds,” Cardinal Cupich said, noting that the synod on synodality is intended to bring all voices forward, especially those who “have been ignored for too long,” including the voices of Catholics from Asia and Africa. “The Asian culture has so much to offer the universal church.”

The church now must work to make sure people understand that Jesus, “the son of the living God,” in Peter’s words from the Gospel reading, is still alive and active in the world, the cardinal said. He is present in the Eucharist, but he is not just making “a cameo appearance” at Mass. He is always present, and he wants his followers to join him in the work of salvation by joining their sacrifices and suffering to his.

That is the message that young people need to hear, he said.

“Their lives are so much more than just making money or having a career,” he said. “The Christian call is to join Christ in bringing about the salvation of the world.”

Cardinal Cupich praised the way St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish has come together, following its creation by the union of the former St. Therese Chinese Catholic Parish and St. Barbara Parish in 2019 as part of the Renew My Church process.

“This community is an example of what happens when people come together and listen to the words of Jesus when he tells us, ‘Renew my church,’” the cardinal said.

Father Francis Li, pastor of St. Mother Teresa Parish, welcomed Asian Catholics from across the archdiocese and more than 20 priests who concelebrated the Mass.

“The Asian Catholic community is small in numbers in the Archdiocese of Chicago, but we have many gifts to contribute,” Li said.

In response to the National Eucharistic Revival, the parish hosted an hour of eucharistic adoration before Mass started, with the Divine Mercy chaplet led by sisters from the religious community founded by Mother Teresa, the Missionaries of Charity.

Mother Teresa, born in Albania, loved Asian people, Li said, devoting her life to serving the poorest of the poor in Kolkata, India, and she wanted to go to China as a missionary, but was not allowed to do so by the Chinese government.

Following Mass, everyone in the congregation was invited to share in a meal with food from all of the communities, an event Cardinal Cupich said makes the annual Asian community Mass even more enjoyable.

Li encouraged everyone to move from “the eucharistic table to the fellowship table.” Participating in the annual Asian Catholic Initiative Mass was a way that members of the community could bear witness to their faith, he said.

“Let’s pray, and let’s work hard to make more Catholics,” he said.


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