JAUCIAN: Houston is a melting pot of cultures, ideas and opportunity

May 14, 2024

As a young Filipina girl in the city of Bellaire, I was constantly reminded of the diversity within the city and the Church. Within my neighborhood and my parish on the southwest side of town, I would hear English and Spanish being exchanged in daily conversations. Pupusas were sold down the street amid American chain restaurants.

Rosaries were bilingual, and there was a mix of celebrations for different feast days. This was the norm outside of my childhood home. The story inside the walls was similar yet different. 

Rather than the mix of English and Spanish, I heard a mix of Tagalog dialects and English pieced together. Upon entering my home, everyone placed their shoes by the entrance, and there was a statue of Santo Niño. The child Jesus looked over our home as images of Our Lady graced the walls, and rosaries were scattered throughout the space. We would gather in the living room to pray the Rosary, rush out the door for Mass, and then come home to share a meal together.

During Advent, we would participate in Simbang Gabi, a devotion and novena where people attend Mass in the nine days leading to Christmas. I thought it was just a Filipino tradition, and I was only one of very few people experiencing this. I did not know if anyone participated in these traditions outside of my immediate family. But the Lord showed me a beautiful union of His people’s cultures and devotion in this local Church. 

As I continued to grow older in age and in my faith, I made friends of different cultures: Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Hispanic and Nigerian. Within this new community, I discovered that some traditions were unique to my Filipino heritage while other traditions had a counterpart in other cultures.

Simbang Gabi was similar to posadas in Hispanic culture, while devotions to Our Lady were universal. While my family had a special devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, my friends of Vietnamese descent had a devotion to Our Lady of Lavang and participated in the Eucharistic Youth Movement, something that I found so beautiful even at a younger age.

Even within the Filipino community, some parishes had bigger ministries that organized big celebrations for Santo Niño, Our Lady, and even hosted Simbang Gabi with a reception filled with Filipino food and the sounds of karaoke.  

Looking back at my experience now as a young Filipina woman, I proudly embrace my heritage and pray for more opportunities to continue connecting with people of different cultures and celebrate our faith in different ways.  

As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, I encourage you to research the traditions of our AAPI brothers and sisters. Perhaps you may attend Mass at Our Lady of Lavang parish or Ascension Chinese Mission, or you may cross paths with the Filipino ministry at your local parish.

May we continue to have open hearts to worship our Lord in the ways we are called, to worship with our fellow brothers and sisters, and to worship in the beautiful ways gifted in a special way to our AAPI community. 

Chrysta Joy Jaucian is an Adore Missionary at St. Mary of the Miraculous Medal Catholic Church in Texas City.

(Photo by James Ramos/Herald)