The International Church: "a gift to the world"

By Mgr Daniel McHugh, the Co-ordinator for Ethnic Chaplaincies in the Archdiocese of Birmingham

I remember my first visit to Rome: it was with a school party when I was about 14, and the Pope Venerable Pius XII was on the Chair of Peter. I can still remember the joy of the international nature of the crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square for a Feast Day.

Well, we are blessed in our Archdiocese in these days to have an opportunity to celebrate the joy of the worldwide nature of the Church at home. Such was the experience of the Intercultural Mass celebrated by Archbishop Bernard Longley on Saturday 24 February in St Mary the Mount Church, Walsall.

The joyous occasion took place to mark the Feast of the Chair of St Peter: a Feast that celebrates the unity of the Church with Peter and his successors in our profession of Faith in Jesus Christ the Messiah.

Archbishop Longley in his Homily spoke of this unity of all peoples in the Catholic Faith as our “gift to the world”. The congregation, from local deaneries, parishes and Ethnic Chaplaincies gathered for this special Mass 
•    in traditional dress from their home countries
•    presented flags from their countries to the Archbishop, who announced their presence at the beginning of Mass
•    sang to different instruments including drums and read in their own languages
•    Cameroonian women danced the Offertory while Vietnamese children brought up the gifts
•    Students from St Francis of Assisi composed the Bidding Prayers
•    Priests wore colourful vestments
•    The people shared food typical of their national cuisine at the social after Mass

It was truly a special experience, one that has been celebrated each year (except during COVID) since the 1970s. Now some parishes are celebrating Intercultural Masses particularly on Pentecost Sunday: what a great way to celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The hospitality of the Vocationist Fathers, who serve parishes and Ethnic Chaplaincies in a number of areas in the Archdiocese, was crucial to the success of the occasion. So was the co-operation of the local deaneries of Lichfield and Walsall, and Dudley and Wolverhampton, and the Ethnic Chaplaincies, Eparchies and Missions.

Thanks to Con McHugh who took pictures to share the joy of the day.

Photo Gallery by Con McHugh

Annual Intercultural Mass

Ethnic Chaplaincies in our Archdiocese

The Annual Intercultural Mass

By parishioner Michael Doyle

On Saturday 24 February 2024 my wife and I attended The Annual Intercultural Mass in my home parish of St Mary’s The Mount, Walsall, the church of The Venerable Ignatius Spencer.

The celebrant for the Mass was Archbishop Bernard Longley with Father Jobin, parish priest, the Vocationalist Fathers and Priests and Deacons from the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

To start the Mass, the processional hymn “How Great Thou Art” was sung by the Hong Kong Community in English and Cantonese.

The Archbishop invited the various different communities to bring their flags and banners which were placed around the sanctuary. It was so marvellous to see the wonderful colours of the flags and national dress of all the different communities.

The Kyrie Eleison was sung in Irish by Father Eamonn Corduff, from the Birmingham Irish Association. A moving rendition of the prayer which took me back to the Masses I attended in Connemara some years ago.

Following on; The Gloria “Ngaarunbidzwe Kudenga-denga” was sung by the Zimbabwean Catholic Chaplaincy in Shona. This was sung in a happy way with a tremendous drum beat which electrified the church.

After the first reading by Christine Inniss of the West Indian Chaplaincy, the responsorial psalm “Somi Mhojo Gonvlli” sung by the Goan Community from St Michael and The Holy Angels, West Bromwich.

The Gospel Acclamation was sung and read by the Hong Kong community.

The Prayers of the Faithful were arranged by Lay Chaplain, Debbie Ferris, from St Francis of Assis, Catholic Church, Aldridge. The pupils read prayers in an array of languages which reflected the make up of the congregation. At the end of the prayers, the Hail Mary was chanted by Dr Faris Eila of the Chaldean Community in Syrian Western Aramaic.

The Offertory Hymn “Na Di Thing weeeh You give we Papa, na yin this we DI bringham so” was sung and danced by the Cameroonian Catholic Women’s Association; a very colourful and vibrant procession to the altar. The Sanctus was sung by the Filipino Community.

With the Lord’s Prayer we were all invited to recite the prayer in our native language. It was an interesting experience where all members of the congregation joined in which indicated the great solidarity and universality of the Catholic Church.

The Communion Hymn “Malagalm” was sung by the Syro-Malabar Community and the hymn “Mirembe Omukama Ayi Yezu Omwagalwa” was sung by the Uganda Chaplaincy in Luganda. Both hymns were an amazing listening experience.

The Recessional Hymn “Nnam nara ekele, Chineke, umugi na ‘nye gi ekele, izuruk’eme” was sung by the Blessed Carlo Acutis Parish African Community which was a remarkable experience on our faith journey.

During the Homily, Archbishop Bernard Longley said that the Intercultural Mass reflected the universality of the Church and that everyone regardless of ethnic origins is welcome in the House of The Lord.

Monsignor Canon McHugh, Co-ordinator of Ethnic Chaplaincies, thanked everyone for attending the Mass and celebration of Faith. He mentioned that Father Francis Martyn, founder of The Mount Church, was the first Catholic priest to be wholly educated and ordained in this country since the Reformation.

Monsignor Canon McHugh thanked Father Jobin, parish priest of St Mary’s The Mount, and the Vocationalist Fathers for the hosting of the Mass.

After the Mass, the congregation went to the parish centre for lunch provided by all the groups who participated in the Mass. The choice of food was excellent and many thanks to kind ladies and gentlemen of The Mount parish who served food and drinks. It was indeed a marvellous social event.