How to live a pastoral ministry of inclusion, welcome and animation of cultures

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by Fr. Manuel Rodriguez Delgado, C.Ss.R.

The Pastoral Ministry of the Redemptorist Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn, New York, is one of inclusion, welcome and animation of the cultures of the different countries of origin. The Parish values interaction and exchange between different cultures because they enrich the Church and society, and promote mutual understanding, tolerance and appreciation of diversity. It recognises the richness of multiculturalism, the multiple languages, the variety of traditions, devotions and cultural expressions of faith of the different countries of origin of the faithful.

It is contrary to the social theory of the past, which was more of a “melting pot” theory. Special attention is given to the different devotions and invocations of the Virgin Mary, supporting, encouraging and serving each culture and its religious traditions.

This was evident with the feast of the protector of the people from the Dominican Republic and her devotion to the Virgin of Altagracia. Her feast day ceremony on 21 January reflected expressions of faith traditions that included a folkloric dance with typical music with the presentation of the rosary as an expression of the deep devotion of the Dominican people to the Virgin Mary. In the offertory procession, in addition to water and wine, and among the elements presented were the typical agricultural products of the Dominican Republic, the crafts of the country and some of the musical instruments used, such as the güira, the tambora, the accordion, the maracas, etc., which form an integral part of the rich and diverse Dominican musical heritage, and which includes genres such as merengue, bachata, son, Afro-Dominican music, among others.

The ceremony was enriched by the recognition of two persons of Dominican origin who have contributed greatly to the community for their services of 30 and 35 years, respectively. The two persons, Luis Arias and Gabina Rodriguez, are siblings. They are part of the Partners in Mission group of lay people who, after a year and a half of formation in Redemptorist spirituality and charism, will be enrolled as collaborators in the Redemptorist mission on the feast of the Most Holy Redeemer in July of this year.

It is interesting and worth mentioning that, among the members of the Redemptorist community of the Basilica, three of the members (Robert Wojtek, Norman Bennett and Manuel Rodriguez) have been missionaries in the Dominican Republic for a total of 33 years. Also, another member of the community (Kevin Moley) was the provincial superior of the Province of San Juan and visited the Dominican Republic on many occasions during his two terms (6 years) of provincial animation.

After the ceremony at the Basilica of Perpetual Help, the Altagracia Commission, in continuation of the festivities, travelled to St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral in the Diocese of Brooklyn. The folkloric dance group of our Basilica was invited to dance in the entrance procession of the Mass in which hundreds of Dominicans from all over the diocese participated.

Still ringing in our ears is the oft-repeated expression, “Que viva la Virgen de Altagracia!” and the response, “Que Viva”!

The original is in Spanish; courtesy: The Baltimore Beacon, issue of Feb 21, 20224.

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