Understanding other cultures seen as key to meaningful celebrations

LOS ANGELES – Building relationships among parish ethnic groups is critical to meaningful multicultural celebrations, said presenters at the National Association of Pastoral Musicians western regional convention Aug. 5-8 in Los Angeles.

“The whole experience of getting to know people and feeling comfortable and feeling welcome is key,” said Pedro Rubalcava, liturgical music composer and director of Hispanic ministries for OCP, a nonprofit publisher of liturgical music and worship resources based in Portland, Ore.

He presented the Aug. 6 keynote address with Franciscan Brother Rufino Zaragoza, a liturgical music consultant and composer.

Mr. Rubalcava said he often asks people if they allow themselves to enter into a relationship with those who have different backgrounds and languages.

“How do we enter into not only relationship, but how do we recognize that as Christians we share the same baptism and Eucharist? This is important for us,” declared Mr. Rubalcava.

One way to share stories with one another, he noted, “is to share our song. Another way is to share our food (or) home (and) another way is to share our images and the experience of what it is to be Catholic.”

By forming cross-cultural relationships, he added, “we’re going to fall in love with each other and we’re going to create a new people – a people where there is no difference, a people who have fallen in love not only with each other but have fallen in love with God.”

The convention, the third regional National Association of Pastoral Musicians assembly, drew nearly 550 participants from 40 states and three foreign countries.

Music and liturgical ministers attended workshops, prayer services and special musical events to gain a better understanding of current issues their ministries are facing, with particular focus on the church’s multicultural journey – something Brother Zaragoza said the U.S. bishops have been writing about for the past 35 years.

“The journey is not really a liturgical question, (or) a musical question; it’s a spiritual question,” said Brother Zaragoza.

The bishops’ teaching on liturgical multiculturalism, he pointed out, has evolved over the decades to focus on the needs of parish cultural groups, such as having resources to worship in their own language, and the idea of “mutual reciprocity.”

“That is when we come with the group and we say, ‘I have something to offer you (and your group), and you have something to offer us,” he said.

He recently attended a multicultural liturgical gathering in Oceanside where the participants discussed the transition process of moving from multilingual music to multicultural liturgy to intercultural liturgy.

“We move from song (multilingual) to dance, art, reverence, posture, gesture (multicultural) to intercultural, where people start learning from each other and they develop a unique way of praying specific to that diocese, specific to that parish. And what that is, is border crossing,” Brother Zaragoza said.

“Border crossing is risky, but it’s called for by our church (because) we’re following the path of Jesus, (who) was a border crosser,” he said.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.