Procession, Mass mark Asian-American Heritage Month

WEST ROXBURY -- Pentecost seemed to come early as members of the archdiocese's Asian communities gathered at Holy Name Parish for a Marian procession and Mass on May 27 in honor of Asian-American Heritage Month.

Representatives of the archdiocese's Chinese, Filipino, and Korean communities organized the event, with assistance from Patrick Krisak, director of faith formation and missionary discipleship, and Lorna DesRoses, evangelization consultant for ethnic communities, who also attended.

"It's a way for us to honor the Asian communities within the Archdiocese of Boston and give thanks for their gifts within the mosaic of the Church," DesRoses said.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the archdiocese used to hold a similar event, Walking with Mary, with the participation of numerous ethnic communities. The last time the archdiocese marked Asian-American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month was in 2021, when a special Mass was held at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the wake of increasing acts of racism and violence against Asians in the U.S.

This year's gathering began with a procession around the neighborhood of Holy Name Church. Participants prayed the rosary in different languages and carried their national flags, statues of Mary as represented in their respective cultures, and banners depicting martyrs from their countries.

The procession began and ended in the church's sanctuary, where they then celebrated the Mass for the vigil of Pentecost. The Filipino Community Choir of Ste. Anne Parish in Salem provided music, and Father Joseph Zhang, administrator of St. James the Greater Parish in Chinatown, was the main celebrant.

The homilist was Father Alex Castro, the chaplain of the archdiocese's Filipino Apostolate and the pastor of St. Anne and St. Patrick Parish in Sturbridge.

In his remarks, Father Castro pointed out the role of the Holy Spirit in both the birth of Christ at Christmas and the birth of the Church at Pentecost, "When the Word became flesh, and when the Church became a living body."

He said that the various Asian communities were gathered there with Mary like the apostles after the Ascension, "praying in one accord, praying as one body, waiting for the Spirit."

Father Castro spoke at length about how many people today describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious." He said such a statement is "a contradiction in terms."

"When they say they are spiritual and not religious, religion for them is private, and individual, and something invisible," he said.

In contrast, the Holy Spirit came "publicly and visibly" on Pentecost, and was given to an entire community, not just certain individuals.

"Those who experience the Pentecost recognize their uniqueness and oneness," Father Castro said.

He likened the crowd at Pentecost, who came from many different countries yet heard the disciples preaching in their own languages, to those gathered for the Asian-American Heritage Mass.

"We are Filipinos, Vietnamese, Koreans, Indians, Chinese, Americans, Africans, all of us gathered together. And how come? We heard them speaking of the mighty acts of God," Father Castro said.

He went on to say that because of the Holy Spirit, they had one common language: the Word of God.

"In a way, we see here a character of the Church, one and catholic, meaning universal. Everyone belongs to that community because of that Spirit. But it doesn't end there. Those who were filled with the Spirit were empowered and sent," he said.

He also spoke about the verse from Psalm 104 that was the refrain in the liturgy: "Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth." Father Castro said that when they pray that, they become part of that renewal.

"This feast asks us if we are generous enough to give ourselves, to spread the fire of God's love in a world that is as needy as it has ever been," he said.

He concluded, "May we bring out that spirit to others so that in our own little ways we renew the face of the Earth and we bring that Spirit to others."

One Hwang, a parishioner of Sacred Heart in Roslindale who was born in Korea, came to the Mass on her own. She said the procession was the first time she prayed the rosary in Korean, which is her first language.

She said the event "definitely increased my sense of what the other Asian communities are doing."

Susan Ho, the director of faith formation at St. James the Greater in Chinatown, carried an image of Mary in the procession. After the Mass, she expressed her gratitude to Krisak and DesRoses for helping and attending the event.

"Just your presence today says a lot," she told them.

Speaking to The Pilot afterwards, she said, "Having all of our communities coming back together post-pandemic, this is just beautiful."