“To see these various ethnic groups come together in their finery in their traditional costumes is extremely exciting,” remarked Rich Widerynski of the Oct. 4 Eucharistic Celebration of Cultures held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. “Not only are the people beautiful, but they’re colorful.”

Now in its tenth year (in its current format), the annual celebration invites representatives from all the ethnic communities together in a show of spiritual universality. This year, the celebration was held on the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi which set the theme of “Compassion for All and Love for God’s Creation.”

For participants, the celebration was a reminder of the nature of Catholicism and church. “Even though you belong to different cultures, we have only one God,” said Imelda Larcia who came with a contingent from the Los Angeles Archdiocese’s Filipino Ministry. “No matter what culture you come from, there is only one God who you can worship and depend on.”

“The music is fantastic and the [opening] procession is always unique,” explained Widerynski who had been in attendance at the Mass of Cultures for all ten years. Dressed in traditional Polish clothing, he said this celebration is a reminder of the strength and diversity of the church.

“To be honest, at first I didn’t know that we had [Catholic representation] from the Middle East and Arabia. I had no idea. Today, we have people from Armenia here for the first time. More and more groups come [every year] and the more the merrier, I say.”

About 30 different ethnic groups participated in the celebration. Feathers, sequins, silks, linens in a rainbow of color dominated the opening procession that was topped off by a traditional dance/song from the Indonesian community that told a story about seeking God during a fearful journey across the ocean.

The Cathedral Choir sang the Litany of Saints during the procession giving the moment an even more powerful sense of collective communion.

A large tapestry of St. Francis was placed on the altar and various groups presented flowers around it to commemorate the saint’s feast day.

In his homily, Archbishop José Gomez not only connected St. Francis to the current pope, but also to Southern California.

“For us in Los Angeles, the Franciscan missionaries evangelized here and named our city after our Blessed Mother,” he said. “Today, we celebrate the Church that grew up from the seeds planted by the missionaries — the great local Church with all its beautiful diversity.”

Representing the Irish community, Laura Whistler came with her two sons and a family friend. “I love that Los Angeles is so multi-cultural, and I think this is what heaven is like,” she reflected. “We all come together and everyone is having a good time and the feeling is wonderful.”

Last year, Arturo Bernao was the lone representative of his Bolivian homeland. This year, he brought along family members who traveled from their home parish of St. Vincent de Paul in Orange County.

“To represent my country is wonderful,” he explained. “But we come here to talk with God today. That is the principal thing.”

Bernao echoed a sentiment that underlined the day’s celebration: wars and fighting separate countries and cultures. “If people could see how united we are under God, things would change,” he said. “I hope all of us leave here today and think of how we are all brothers.”