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St. Anthony Parish Mission celebrates churchs faith unity
Fernando Gutierrez proclaims the first Scripture Reading during the bilingual Mass Thursday night. Behind him, at left, is St. Anthony of Padua Church Associate Vicar Camilo Garcia. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

The theme of the evening was “One Body in Christ.”

Its symbolism was demonstrated in all the events that took place Thursday evening when St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church ended the three-day Parish Mission. The mission itself was a special occasion to mark the end of a faith program called ARISE that parishioners have conducted all year long in 2012.

“Before he died, Jesus prayed that we all be one. We are one people united in faith and love. We are called to tolerate our differences, to celebrate our differences,” said Father Patrick Walker in his homily during the bilingual concelebrated Mass that preceded the reception and fellowship in the parish rec hall.

As part of that unity of faith, members of the Mexican, Portuguese and Filipino communities of the parish started the procession at the beginning of the Mass Thursday by bringing to the altar “special icons of their culture” – the Festa de Espirito Santo (Feast of the Holy Ghost group) with the crown and scepter, the group of Our Lady of Guadalupe with a large framed picture of the Patroness of the Americas, and the Holy Child (Santo Nino) of Cebu.

During the Presentation of the Gifts, in addition to the traditional bread and wine used during the Mass, leaders from various communities also processed with their culture’s version of bread which they placed on a table covered by a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl, in front of the altar.

Concelebrating the mass were Father Walker, the pastor of St. Anthony’s Church, and assistant vicars, Father Camilo Garcia who is Mexican, and Father Dante Dammay who is Filipino. The Mass readings, prayers, and service songs were in English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Latin.

Members of the Knights of Columbus in full regalia added pomp and pageantry to the liturgical celebration by posting the colors during the processional.

At the rec hall following the Mass, everyone had an opportunity to taste the various types of ethnic food brought by the different groups who took part in the ARISE faith program. Parishioners Elam and Claire Goundar brought “puri,” a type of bread from their native India. “It’s like a little tortilla; you can eat it with anything,” explained Claire.

The Goundars said everything that they tasted was “very good.” They are also looking forward to next year’s second annual Parish Mission. While they are quite familiar with the prayer services to Our Lady of Guadalupe, having attended several of these at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Lathrop, the Goundars said they were quite fascinated with the Filipino community’s devotion to the Santo Nino, believed to be miraculous and the oldest religious icon in the Philippines dating back to 1521 when it was brought to the islands, according to historians, by Ferdinand Magellan.

Claire Goundar said the occasion Thursday was particularly special because this was the first time the feast of the Santo Nino was celebrated at St. Anthony’s.

The first annual Parish Mission was coordinated by parishioner David Corder.