Mass in Many tongues, a Multicultural marvel
Stella Maris' Church grounds was a sea of colour as more than 800 parishioners gathered to celebrate the community's rich cultural diversity at the first ever Multicultural Mass on Sunday 18 June.
The large parish church was overflowing with 800 people spilling out onto the verandas and gardens, coming together to celebrate Mass and deliver a rousing sentiment of equality, diversity and inclusion.
Parishioners, representing more than 20 cultural communities, dressed in colourful, cultural costumes to celebrate the uniqueness and vibrancy of their Catholic faith traditions and "build a house where love can dwell".
Some of the communities represented across the parish included Filipino, Mexican, Indian, Croatian, Polish, Hungarian, Samoan, Nigerian, South African and the multitude of Latin American communities.
They were powerfully recognisable in the liturgy with Prayers of the Faithful said in 12 different languages; and all cultural groups participating in the entrance and offertory processions recognisable by their country flags and national costumes.
The music, coordinated by Michael Fitzpatrick, involved musicians from every community and it captured the broad breath of expression and the emotion of so many coming together united by a common faith.
Fr William Aupito Iuliano in his homily powerfully reminded the assembly that “…we are all equal brothers and sisters, united by our baptism.”
“Signs of peace, frequent kneeling, and the words “amen” and “hallelujah” throughout the service are symbolic reminders of the similarities that unite Catholics around the word regardless of their mother tongue or cultural context,” he said.
“To enhance that with a beautiful and unique culturally specific liturgy serves to enhance genuine belonging and harmony and can be a blessing for everyone.”
One parishioner, Josephine Marciniak, described the mass as “a great opportunity for people to experience a prayerful communion across many languages and parishes”.
Another parishioner, Michele Dougherty, said that she had tears in her eyes for most of the ceremony.
"I have never attended a Catholic Mass that felt so inclusive and accepting of all the different persons present - all one on the faith of Jesus!"
Following the Mass, parishioners enjoyed a variety of traditional food and a display of cultural dances in the Stella Maris Church grounds.
They were treated to a food fiesta with each community providing the 800 strong-crowd with examples of their own unique culinary traditions.
Parish Priest, Fr Peter Brannelly said it was one of the most memorable experiences of his priesthood, experiencing the generosity and excitement of so many coming together united by the common bond of faith.
“In a reflection of the feeding of the 5000, everyone enjoyed the multitude of flavours and tasted the different cultural cuisines for free!” he said.
Incorporated into the afternoon were cultural displays from Irish dancing to representatives from each group singing a national sing-a-long, “I am Australian”, the iconic song by the Seekers.
Olga Girle, one of the co-ordinators of the Multicultural Mass, said it was “a humbling experience of generosity and gratitude reflected in the hospitality to cook for and feed 800 parishioners.”
“We are lucky to live in one of the most vibrant and multicultural countries on earth — from the oldest continuous culture of our First Australians to the cultures of our newest arrivals from around the world and today was a great day to celebrate the bonds of faith that unite us and gives us so much hope and encouragement,” she added.
The Stella Maris Catholic Parish at Maroochydore embraces a diverse and inclusive parish.
Currently, the Maroochydore parish of Stella Maris celebrates Mass weekly in two other languages apart from English.
Polish Mass is celebrated every fourth Sunday at 4.00pm at St Mary's Church at Buderim and the Syro-Malabar Eastern Catholic Church confers sacraments at the parish.