They came from different households, different towns, different cultures and backgrounds, but on June 3, as they processed together down the streets of Waltham, they represented one community, united in Christ and harmonizing in song and prayer.
In celebration of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi, Waltham parishioners of different parish communities came together at St. Mary Church to celebrate a morning Mass with Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley and to lead a eucharistic procession through the streets of the city to the nearby St. Charles Borromeo Church.
It was standing room only at the 11 a.m. Mass, and the church was filled with an array of bright colors as members of the parish's vibrant Hispanic and Ugandan communities dressed in traditional garb to celebrate their unique cultures.
The Mass, concelebrated by pastor Father Michael Nolan and administrator Father Alejandro Lopez-Cardinale, represented a moment of unity, said Cardinal O'Malley in his homily.
Switching between Spanish and English, the cardinal recalled how Jesus in the Gospels often spoke on the importance of unity, how even during the very first Mass, Jesus "prayed for unity among us."
In Masses today, he said, unity can be found in the sign of peace, as strangers come together in a moment of friendship. The sharing of the Eucharist, too, is "a communal act of worship. It calls us to love, to act just," to promote social justice, and to spread the message of Christ to the world.
"If the world finds it hard to believe our message, to believe in Christ, in part it is because of our divisions and our lack of unity," he said.
Cardinal O'Malley noted that "When we are gathered together, then God hears our prayers, then Christ is truly present in our midst."
During his homily, Cardinal O'Malley also noted Father Nolan's ongoing recovery from cancer and thanked the communities for coming together in support and in prayer for his recovery.
The cardinal led the Eucharistic procession out of the church following the Mass, carrying a monstrance and followed by dozens of parishioners. The procession made several stops for prayer and adoration before finally ending at St. Charles Borromeo Church. Cardinal O'Malley departed from the group following the first stop at a nearby park, and Father Nolan led the procession the rest of the way.
Father Lopez-Cardinale, speaking to The Pilot after the procession, said Corpus Christi is a time for building the body of Christ, "so we try to merge the whole community together -- Americans, Hispanics, Ugandans -- in one celebration in order to honor the Blessed Sacrament, and also to bring it out of the church and onto the streets."
In doing so, "we bring Jesus to those who might not notice that today is a day of solemnity. It's kind of to say that even if you're not with us, Jesus is with you," he said.
It builds the sense of the community and helps "build bridges," he continued, and gives people the opportunity "to discover the sanctity of their life and discover they belong to the Church, they belong to the body."
Responding to questions in Spanish translated through Father Lopez-Cardinale, parishioner Mario Lopez said the Mass and procession was a "gift."
A Guatemalan native, Lopez said he was happy to see "those walking through the procession holding the traditions from the countries they come from."
"As we celebrate here today, we also celebrate in the countries we come from, so for us it's kind of a bridge, and a liaison between our traditions," he said.
Henry Ndawula, a member of Ugandan community said that in processing, "I felt great and energized in faith."
"I was so happy to see that we could come together and pray and celebrate our Jesus Christ," he said.