St. Albert the Great in Austin celebrates its diversity
By Enedelia J. Obregón
St. Albert the Great Parish in Austin will celebrate its cultural diversity at a multicultural Mass on Nov. 3 at 2 p.m. The celebration will include prayers and Scripture in different languages as well as liturgical dancing and hymns from different countries. After the Mass, festivities will continue with a feast of foods from the different ethnic groups.
Angela Baker, parish co-coordinator for social ministries, said the multicultural celebration began seven years ago under then-pastor Father Isidore Ndagizimana.
"This is the most culturally diverse parish," Baker said. "Last year we had 52 nations represented, and it’s been as high as 57."
On a 6-foot-by-8-foot map of the world, parishioners last year placed straight pins on their countries of origin. Pins were placed in countries all over Asia, Europe and Latin America. Hispanics are currently the largest ethnic group in the parish, which now has a 2 p.m. Sunday Mass in Spanish.
The parish also has many congregants from the U.S. The Texas map had so many pins that it got worn out, Baker said, and they’ll be getting a new one.
"We celebrate who we are," Baker said. "We represent the universal church."
Their pastoral leadership also is diverse –– Father Matt Iwuji, the pastor is from Nigeria; and associate pastor Redemptorist Father Vincent Nguyen is from Vietnam.
"It’s a marvelous opportunity for people to get to know people from different cultures," Baker said. "It gives us a better understanding of who we are. The Catholic Church is world-wide. We come from every corner of the world."
Baker said she doesn’t know if the diversity at the parish arose from the diversity in the neighborhood or vice versa.
"On the block where I live I can go around the world just talking to my neighbors," she said. "Around the corner is a woman who grew up in Palestine. Two doors down are people from Vietnam."
At the Mass last year, 13 languages were heard. This year, parishioners will hear dialects from India, Africa and the Philippines. A choir will sing in German. There is also a Mexican choir and a dragon dance will be performed by Vietnamese members.
Baker, a Colorado native, said it was the cultural diversity as well as the fact that the parish is a member of Austin Interfaith that attracted her and her late husband to St. Albert 16 years ago.
"It was not as diverse at the beginning," she said. "It now is beginning to represent what Austin looks like."
When she arrived, the parish had between 500 and 600 families. It now has about 2,300 families.
Parishioners will wear name tags with information on their place of birth and the neighborhood where they live to develop a sense of community.
For more information about the Mass and St. Albert Parish, visit www.saintalbert.org or call (512) 837-7825