St. Matthew’s Parish gathers a multitude of different cultures
By Josh Tng
Photo Caption: A former migrant dances during the reception after the Mass for the World Day of Migrants. Joshua Tng / The B.C. Catholic.
Arriba! With high-tempo music, international dress, and food from around the world, 900 immigrants, refugees, and temporary workers, along with friends and family, celebrated the 103rd World Day of Migrants and Refugees at St. Matthew’s Church.
“All of us are immigrants, refugees, or descendants of such,” said Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, in his homily during the he multilingual Mass. “For over a century, Canada has been one of the most open and accepting countries in the world for welcoming migrants, confirmed by Canada’s willingness to accept refugees from the Middle East.”
The archbishop thanked those who sponsored refugees, both as individuals and through their parishes. “The Catholic Church is an advocate for the rights of refugees, and I’m especially grateful to the countless numbers of individuals and the 39 parishes that assist in our refugee sponsorship program.”
In the last 20 years, the program had aided thousands of refugees, with a 1,000 in the last five years, he said.
After Mass, the crowd gathered in the school gymnasium, where food representing their various cultures was laid around the table and shared. Attendees representing nationalities including Indonesia, Poland, Latin America and Africa performed traditional dances and songs for entertainment.
The theme for the sixth international day of prayer came from Pope Francis: focusing attention on “the smallest of the small” among refugees, such as children and offspring of migrants.
“My parents were refugees from Vietnam themselves,” said Paul Vo, a volunteer with the archdiocesan Service and Justice office. “So (the event) is really close to home for me. It’s a lot of hard work to be able to move over here in Vancouver.”
The Service and Justice office organized the local event and provided aid to many of the attendees. “Most of our work is filing, viewing emails, and looking at a screen,” Vo said. “But to put a face to many of these files I’ve been working on is really amazing. It’s a huge relief to see these happy people with their families and children and know the kids have the opportunity that I did.”
Seeing the guests dressed in traditional garb helped reinforce Vo’s view of the Church. “You know how it’s said the Church is universal?” he asked. “To actually see it like this, we’re all connected as a multicultural but also intercultural community. All the different clothing, all the different languages said during Mass, it’s still the same Mass and the same liturgy. We’re all still Catholic.”
The World Day of Migrants and Refugees Mass is a “great opportunity to come together, to worship together,” said the Service and Justice office’s Evelyn Vollet. The office worked hard to invite refugees to attend the Mass “because we wanted to celebrate the solidarity this Mass is about,” she said.
“I’m always grateful we live in peace, because we live in Canada. I never forget that,” she said.