Monday, June 14, 2010

Proclaiming God's Marvelous Deeds - A Multicultural Celebration

Yesterday at my parish of St. John the Baptist, Joliet, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of religious profession of Father Fred Radtke, OFM., our parochial vicar, soon to be our pastor. Certainly, a good time was had by all and Father Fred was honored in a suitable manner, but true to his wishes, God and the community were the stars of the day... and the music and musicians were integral to that.

All the elements of a bilingual celebration our parish does well were present: a combined choir (the English Choir and the 1 p.m. Spanish Choir), a string trio, readers in both languages, and the prayers and homily in both languages. The music reflected not only European-American sensibilities and the Hispanic culture, but Gospel and Reggae as well, adding a multi-cultural flavor reflecting the diversity of today's Church. This "flavor" is a reality that has been long in development, mostly due to the hard work of bringing two diverse cultures together musically which our parish music director, Mary Beth Diab, has developed for a number of years.

We opened with Kenneth W. Louis's "Proclaim God's Marvelous Deeds", a New Orleans "gospel strut"reminscent of a jazz funeral song with the refrain in both English and newly translated by one of our parish ministers into Spanish. As cantor, I also played a Celtic drum (bodhran) in a decidedly un-Celtic manner... yet another cultural layer.  After the procession, we swung into the Bobby Fisher Gloria from the Mass of Santa Barbara, a bilingual Reggae setting. The responsorial psalm was one composed by Todd Russ, a young man from our parish which has become a favorite of the Franciscan friars, "All-Knowing, Mighty God," a setting of Psalm 139 in a modern melodic classical vein. Music of the Liturgy of the Word concluded with the rollicking "Salmo 117: Aleluya/Psalm 117: Alleluia" by Mary Frances Reza of New Mexico.

"Oyenos, Senor/Listen to Your People" by Bob Hurd was used as the General Intercession Response, and the English modern standard "You Are Mine" (David Haas) was the song at the Preparation of the Gifts. A Spanish echo-format "Santo" (unattributed) and the Hurd Memorial Acclamation and Amen from "Missa del Pueblo Immigrante" was followed by an intriguing setting of the Padre Nuestro/Our Father to the tune of "The Sounds of Silence."  (Great way to recycle an old familiar tune - sure to bring a smile to the faces of those of us who remember the old Simon and Garfunkel classic.) Bobby Fisher's Lamb of God/Cordero de Dios ("Bread of Life" setting) led us into the Communion Rite, which was accompanied by Bob Hurd's classic "Pan de Vida" and a sung meditation by Oscar Tejeda, our parish leader of the Spanish Choir. 

As the liturgy closed, we exited to the rock and roll anthem from World Youth Day 2004, "Jesus Christ, You Are My Life" with verses in English and Spanish, to a feast that included fried chicken, fajitas, and assorted entrees and treats reflecting both cultures.

Father Fred, in his homily,had emphaized it was his wish that this celebration be not about him, personally, but about God -- but I would add that it was also about the Body of Christ at St. John the Baptist in Joliet, gathered to honor not only Father Fred, but to proclaim God's marvelous deeds among His people.  The original St. John's German Catholic Church (founded in 1852) the presence of the Franciscans for many years, the growth of the Hispanic community over the past 15 years, the challenges and realities of inner-city parish life, modern culture and the struggles to bring two diverse cultural mindsets together in parish leadership, the great bilingual music... and indeed, the life and ministry of Father Fred - these are the marvelous deeds of God... and all of this is why I love St. John's. If lex orandi, lex credendi  (loosely, "how we pray is what we believe") is true, then this parish has a vision. We may struggle yet to achieve this in reality, but our worship shows we are on the way.

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