OGDEN — Freezing rain, travel distance, and the rules regarding social gatherings called for by the ongoing pandemic – nothing stopped Catholics from all over the Diocese of Salt Lake City from gathering at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ogden for this year’s Intercultural Marian Celebration.
The event, which took place Oct. 9, began with a procession through the streets adjacent to the parish. Participants carried altars and carriages displaying representations of Our Lady from around the world. Some people also wore traditional clothing from their countries of origin.
The procession was led by members of the Legion of Mary, who this year are celebrating the 100th year of the founding of their international lay apostolic association of Catholics.
Bishop Oscar A. Solis followed the icon carried by the Legion of Mary. he was accompanied by Father Sebastien Sasa, administrator of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish; and Fr. Oscar Hernandez, parochial vicar of St. Joseph Parish. In the procession were dozens of faithful Catholics.
Fr. Joshua Santos, administrator of St. Joseph Parish, guided the prayers and songs for the procession. He and members of the diocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry, along with a planning committee, made all the arrangements for the day’s event.
After the procession, those present gathered in St. Joseph Catholic Church for a Mass at which Bishop Solis presided. Concelebrants were Fr. Santos, Fr. Sasa, Fr. Hernandez and Fr. Tai Nguyen, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish.
As Fr. Santos welcomed people to the event, he said it was “a great joy to see us all gathered for this celebration … All for one common intention: for peace, peace for the world and all men. … Peace for our families, peace for our hearts. ... However, our celebration wouldn’t be true if we didn’t have the presence of Our Lady with us here today.”
At the church, a group of the parish’s young people formed a tunnel through which the image of Our Lady from the Legion of Mary entered and was placed on a special altar as parishioners sang the “Ave Maria.” The images of Our Lady from the other groups were placed on other tables in the church.
Children from the parish’s religious education classes placed letters forming the words “Ave Maria” at the feet of one of the images of Our Lady, then kids from all over the diocese dressed as angels offered flowers to the Blessed Mother.
Speaking in English and Spanish, Bishop Solis welcomed those present to the Mass “honoring our Blessed Mother and thanking God for giving us the Blessed Virgin Mary to be our mother,” he said, adding that the day was “a special moment in the life of our faith community as we gather as one faith family.”
The event respected the various languages spoken by people in the diocese as well as their origins and differences, but was a time to celebrate as one faith community, he said.
In his homily, Bishop Solis said the celebration was an opportunity to give thanks for the many blessings the community and individuals have received.
Although people have experienced many trials and endured sufferings, “Our gathering today reminds us that God is with us even in the pandemic, despite our own concerns. … Our God is a faithful God who loves us and cares for us until the end,” the bishop said.
The Gospel reading for the weekend was from Mark 10, about the rich young man who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. In his homily, the bishop said that sometimes people turn toward material things and end up worshiping money rather than the Almighty, and cautioned that “God must be first in our lives. … If you want to follow Christ, we must be able to sacrifice and share our blessings with those in need.”
“So, my dear friends, in this Mass let us ask for wisdom … to follow [Christ] as disciples and have eternal life,” he said.
As an indication of the international composition of the diocese, the intentions were read in different languages, including an African dialect, Spanish, English, Filipino and Tongan.
Before the Mass concluded, those present had the opportunity to recite the consecration to Our Blessed Mother.
At the end of the celebration, Fr. Santos mentioned that the day marked the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines, and a token of appreciation was presented to Bishop Solis by some of the Catholic community of Utah.
Both Bishop Solis and Fr. Santos are originally from the Philippines.