Ethnic ministries bond together in the universal spirit of Christ’s love
March 23, 2021
Filipino Catholics gather with Filipino priests for a Simbang Gabi Mass in 2020. Filipino Ministries is one of the largest ethnic ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund. (Photo courtesy of Filipino Ethnic Ministries)
HOUSTON — In the universal spirit of loving like Christ to all those encountered, especially in light of the COVID-19 mandates restricting large gatherings now over a year, the Vietnamese and Filipino ministries continue to bring the light of hope and comfort to those they serve in the Archdiocese.
While the pandemic has put on hold many of the traditional events and devotions treasured by these two communities, their bond of fellowship and care for those they serve have not diminished.
“We have realized with this pandemic the importance of our community and not just on Zoom — that human interaction fosters better collaboration and working relationships,” said Father Edmund P. Eduarte, vicar of the 50,000 Filipino Catholics in the Archdiocese. “There are still areas of the Filipino-American Catholics in Houston that we want to address and be more involved with in the future.”
While many ministry events have been canceled, Father Eduarte said one of its largest annual celebrations, Simbang Gabi, was still held in December, but without the large fellowship gathering at the end. While certainly not the same experience, he said his community was grateful to celebrate together in-person.
According to the vicar for Vietnamese Catholics, Father Thu Ngoc Nguyen, the annual Vietnamese Christmas Eve Mass, his community’s largest gathering, was canceled, as well as the Asian Mass that brings together the Asian Catholic community in the Archdiocese each fall.
“In support of the local Church, once a year, along with other Asian Catholic parishes and communities in the Archdiocese, we come together with other Asian ethnic groups to celebrate Mass together,” said Father Nguyen. “After the Asian Mass, a reception with entertainment from each Asian ethnic group is typically provided, which includes the Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Indonesia, Korean and Vietnamese communities.”
Although this main event was canceled in 2020, Rita Goodrich-Marcelino, a representative on the Filipino Ministry Council for five years, said she looks forward to the return of this annual tradition. She feels the unity experienced between Asian Catholics is a good example of groups coming together to join in the bond and spirit of Christ’s love.
“We find commonality among our Asian brothers and sisters of our love for God and the joys of religious freedom,” said Goodrich-Marcelino. “Though we speak different languages, we express our love for each other and understanding through the smiles and sharing of ethnic food.”
Goodrich-Marcelino said she looks forward to gathering in fellowship once again in parishes that celebrate Filipino cultural celebrations and feast days, such as Salubong, Santo Niño, Fiestas of San Lorenzo Ruiz, and San Pedro Calungsod, Santa Cruzan in May. She feels these traditions are important in keeping them united in their support of the local Church.
“Immigrants are best supported by recognizing and incorporating their spiritual traditions and culture in parish communities and in the Archdiocese,” said Goodrich-Marcelino. “These naturally evoke us to ‘walk in the light of Christ’ as evangelizers, catechists and lay ministers/leaders.”
Clarissa and Anthony Garcia, also members of the Archdiocesan Filipino Ministry Council, agree the Filipino Ministry helps bring about the spirit of community among the entire Archdiocese.
“One of the greatest strengths of Filipinos is our ability to integrate into our host country’s culture and traditions while maintaining our forefather’s strong family values and generous nature,” said Anthony Garcia. “That is why many Filipinos are in the areas of health care, teaching, and caretakers of young and old.”
To help support the spirit of community among the 30,000 Vietnamese Catholics in the Archdiocese, Father Nguyen said the Ministry to Vietnamese Catholics has several communications tools that have become important sources of information.
“Our radio program has been on the air for at least 20 years, with a mission to evangelize and provide information of the Archdiocese and our ministry to the Vietnamese community in their own language,” said Father Nguyen. “In addition, our weekly bulletin provides reflection and information in Vietnamese that are circulated at each of the Vietnamese Catholic parishes and communities.”
The Ministry to Vietnamese Catholics and Ministry to Filipino Catholics are a part of the Ethnic Ministries of the Archdioceses of Galveston-Houston that are supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF) annually.
DSF support allows each ethnic ministry group to continue to be a source of help and information to those they serve, including sacramental and pastoral care and special faith traditions and customs of the people of the particular ethnic group, such as the Asian Mass. The ministries also provide a means to educate the greater community about their respective linguistic and cultural gifts.
To learn more about the Ethnic Ministries of the Archdiocese and DSF, go to www.archgh.org/dsf.