A hat, a pair of shoes, and a bottle of water. These are a few of the symbolic objects that were offered at the beginning of the Eucharistic Celebration for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees Sept. 29, representing the reality of the people forced to migrate, leaving their home countries behind.
The special Mass that incorporated elements from various Catholic cultures around the world was held at Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Wheat Ridge and was celebrated by Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez.
Bishop Rodríguez started his homily acknowledging the reality of migrants and refugees around the world and the struggles they go through when they arrive in an unknown land.
“Men and women have been displaced from their own countries, cultures, and families, by war, poverty, oppression, persecution, and danger so they look for refuge and a new life in more affluent and safe countries,” he said. “Most of us here can define ourselves as migrants and refugees… You my brothers and sisters, migrants and refugees, you make America the beautiful even more beautiful.”
At the same time, he recognized that the United States is a country of immigrants and asked the migrant community to be grateful and pray for this country that has opened the doors to many migrants and refugees.
“As immigrants and refugees, we owe gratitude to the United States of America, because in one way or another, it has allowed us to prosper and offer a future to our families and our children,” Bishop Rodriguez continued. “We have to correspond with loyalty and appreciation to the American people… American people have opened their cities, schools, and homes to receive us, may the Lord bless America, because this is America.”
Several communities from different parts of the world were present at this celebration, including the Hispanic, Pakistani, Vietnamese, African, and American communities, among others who also received the bishop’s blessing.
“The Mass was a tremendous start to what will hopefully become an annual tradition here in Denver,” said Hung Pham, Director of the Office of Liturgy. “Having lived and worked in California for most of my life, large multicultural Masses were very common and it’s great to see one here in Denver where many cultures got to bring their unique expressions to the celebration. It showcased both the unity and diversity within our church here in Denver.”
During the Mass, Bishop Rodriguez quoted and reflected on former President Ronald Reagan’s last speech as President: “Thanks to each one of those waves of arrivals to this nation of opportunity, we are a nation that is always young and always full of energy, new ideas, and always renewing. And this quality is vital for the future of our nation… If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would be lost.”
“But the church wants us to be aware that there is something going on in a different direction,” the bishop said. “Borders are closed, dividing walls are raised, and people fleeing from war, poverty and persecution are kept out. Many have lost their lives looking for a way in. From 2014 to 2018, more than 17,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to cross from northern Africa to Europa, and in those same years, 1,476 have died in the Rio Bravo or were dehydrated in the desert while trying to enter to our country.”
One of the most emotional moments of the celebration was experienced when the bishop asked the attendees to pray the Lord’s Prayer in each of their native languages, demonstrating that the Catholic Church is universal and that we worship and are loved by the same God.
After the special Mass, guests attended a festival at the church’s hall where people from different parts of the world shared their traditions, music, dances, and a variety of dishes from their respective countries.
“Migrants and refugees are a message from God to the world and a gift from God to the United States of America,” Bishop Rodriguez concluded.