Photos: The Diversity Among Catholics In LA Was On Full Display This Weekend
In Los Angeles, Catholic masses aren't just in English or Spanish. Across the L.A. Archdiocese, immigrant communities hold regular services in more than 40 languages. That diversity was on full display Saturday at the Archdiocese's annual Celebration of Cultures Mass.
The event at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels kicked off with a procession of representatives from 30 Catholic communities: Chinese Catholics, Brazilian Catholics, Nigerian Catholics, all wearing traditional attire and holding posters honoring the Catholic icons associated with their homelands.
"This is like the sixth or seventh year that I've been here doing this," said Jesus Acuna, representing L.A.'s Mexican Catholic community with a Virgin of Guadalupe poster. "This event is welcoming to all of us. This is something very, very beautiful."
The Mexican Catholic dance group Danza Guadalupana from Oxnard presented a liturgical dance with indigenous roots. Priests offered prayers in Vietnamese, Lithuanian, Korean and Tagalog.
The nearly five million Catholics in Los Angeles come from about 70 countries, according to the Archdiocese. Archbishop Jose Gomez called on L.A.'s different Catholic immigrant groups to unite as one church, while honoring cultural differences.
"We all belong here," said Gomez. "We need integration, but at the same time, we need respect for our customs and our traditions in every community."
Tony Huynh participated in the festivities on behalf of the Vietnamese Catholic community. He attends Saint Finbar Church in Burbank, where the first Vietnamese Catholic group started back in 1975, the same year Saigon fell to communist forces.
Yukikazu Nagashima attends St. Francis Xavier Church in Little Tokyo, the only Japanese parish in the region.
"It is important to know all the different communities that share the same faith," said Nagashima. "That is very encouraging to us."
Tesfu Tesfazgi represented local Eritrean Catholics. He attends Eritrean masses at St. Albert the Great in Compton, a church that is shared with Spanish-speaking parishioners.
"Joining the other ethnic ministries means a lot," said Tesfazgi. "We're representing not only the Los Angeles Eritrean community, but Eritreans back home as well."
It was Paula Dupre-Moore's first time at this annual mass, representing Louisiana Creole Catholics, who maintain a community at St. Agatha's Church in West Adams.
"We wanted to represent our people and some of the original Americans of this land," Dupre-Moore said. "Creoles have been here since the 1500s. This is a beautiful, multi-ethnic, multi-racial gathering, so it was perfect for us."
The annual event is hosted by the Archdiocese's Office of Ethnic Ministry, which oversees and coordinates efforts to provide pastoral care and social outreach to the growing number of migrants from diverse ethnic backgrounds in Los Angeles.
The office was overseen by L.A. auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar until last year, when he resigned amid child sex abuse allegations deemed "credible" by the Archdiocese. Archbishop Jose Gomez claims Salazar's exit hasn't affected the ethnic ministry office.
"The Archdiocese has different ways of supporting the different ministries," Gomez said. "We are restructuring the office of ethnic ministry to respond more to the needs we have now. And obviously an important part of that is the sense of belonging here, the sense that we are together."
Gomez led the mass just hours after President Trump tweeted that he was temporarily delaying immigration sweeps that had been scheduled for Sunday in L.A. and other cities around the country.
"What we need is comprehensive immigration reform," Gomez told reporters after the mass. "That's the only solution for the reality of immigrants in the United States. This is a country of immigrants, and it works when we have an immigration law that welcomes people. That's what we have to pray for."
Aaron Schrank covers religion, international affairs and the Southern California diaspora under a grant from the Luce Foundation.