He called it “dancing in tongues.”
“Seeing everybody out on the dance floor together, people from so many different cultures, was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen as a priest,” Father Francis Doyle said of the reception after Columbia Sacred Heart parish’s multicultural Mass for Pentecost Sunday.
For years, Sacred Heart has been the spiritual home to people from many nations, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds.
Fr. Doyle presided at the Mass the evening before the feastday.
The parish’s regular adult choir, the Hispanic choir and the African choir combined voices to lead the singing.
Parishioners read the Prayers of the Faithful in their native tongues — German, Kirundi, Vietnamese, Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese. English translations were printed in a booklet.
Everyone prayed the “Our Father” in his or her own language.
Deacon Bill Caubet preached the homily.
He referred several times to phrases in President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inaugural Address, including “Let the word go forth.”
“Those five words could sum up the feast we are celebrating today,” he said.
Scripture says that after the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles on the first Pentecost, they went out and started fearlessly proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, Who suffered, died and rose from the dead.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, everyone understood them in his or her own language.
“The word went forth from Jerusalem to Judea and on to Corinth and Ephesus and Rome and Africa and Spain and eventually to Columbia, Missouri,” said Deacon Caubet.
“What began with a few frightened people in a dark room in Jerusalem has spilled out and touched every corner of the globe,” he said. “You’ll find the word preached in every language, just as it was on that very first Pentecost. And it’s understood in billions of hearts.
“And it all began on this date that we celebrate: Pentecost, the birthday of the Church.”
The first believers suffered persecution, and many died for the faith.
“We need to carry on just like they did,” he said. “We need to throw open the windows of our fear and our uncertainty and let the light in.”
No one does this alone. The Holy Spirit is always present, bearing gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.
“We’ll have the Spirit to lift us up when we’re struggling, to strengthen us when we’re weak, to console us when we’re grieving, to comfort us when we’re frightened,” said Deacon Caubet.
Living in the Spirit means living in Christ, which means living in His Father.
“The early Christians had a name for that,” Deacon Caubet noted. “They called it The Way.
“You find it today in our churches, from Brooklyn to Budapest, where faithful men, women and children offer their prayers to God, asking for healing and reconciliation, and peace,” he said.
“You find it anywhere a Christian strives to hold the hand of someone who’s hurting, brings comfort to someone who’s lonely, or restores faith to someone who’s lost it.”
The future depends on people living and sharing the Good News with all of the certainty and confidence of Jesus’ first followers on Pentecost.
“It’s up to each of us,” the deacon stated. “Let us ask the Spirit to touch all of our hearts as He touched the hearts of all the disciples on that first Pentecost. Let the fire burn over you so the flame can spread.
“Strike a match, set the world ablaze, and let the Word go forth!” he said.
With dancing and music
After Mass, congregants adjourned to the parish activity building for the “Many Tastes of the World” celebration of music, food and fellowship.
They feasted on a potluck smorgasbord containing recipes from Honduras, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Mexico, the Philippines, Japan, Lebanon, Vietnam, United States, and other locales.
Decorations included white doves for Pentecost and flags of the nations of the world.
A previous Sacred Heart pastor once counted 22 distinct nationalities represented among members.
“We have a lot more than that now because we have refugees from all over the world,” said Pat Gerke, who helped organize this year’s Pentecost event.
She directs the parish’s volunteer, one-on-one tutoring program to help people learn English.
“A lot of the people in the program come to this event and bring food,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to practice their English.”
Parish Liturgy Director Chris Vitt said it’s always amazing to hear people from so many different cultures worship God together.
She said many who sang in the choir probably didn’t think when they arrived in the United States that they would be called upon to sing the music of their cultures at Mass or prepare their favorite food to share.
“More than likely, they thought they were going to have to do everything American,” she said. “But they found out different when they came to Sacred Heart.”
After a while, the dining and visiting turned to dancing, with people from all over the world line-dancing to such songs as “YMCA,” “Night Fever” and “Achy Breaky Heart” — in Spanish.
Lighting up the dance area was an art-glass window mounted in a shadowbox with bright lights.
Created by Columbia artisan Paul Prost, now deceased, for the diocese’s Jubilee observances in 2000, the window is a striking reproduction of the “Holy Spirit Descending” skylight from the College Building at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio.
It depicts a dove representing the Holy Spirit, with bright splinters of radiating color.
Your children from afar
Fr. Doyle said he feels proud and blessed to be associated with the people of Sacred Heart.
“This parish is very, very diverse, spanning many cultures, many backgrounds, all different education levels, different income levels,” he said. “We have people who are athletes and people who are physically handicapped.”
He said looking at them all from the sanctuary of the church, “it’s like a microcosm of all of God’s people.”
“Not only do I minister to the people, they certainly minister to me,” he added.