St. Mark’s celebrates diversity

(COURTESY/FRANK ELIM)

Twelve years ago, Pauline Father Dominik Libiszewski came to the U.S. as a newly ordained priest. “I experienced a great deal of culture shock. Everything was so different for me… new country, new culture, new language… I felt isolated and I spent a lot of nights crying and asking God ‘What I am doing here?’” he recalled. Eventually he met people and slowly felt part of a community. This personal experience inspired St. Mark the Evangelist Parish’s “One Body in Christ” international Mass, Sept. 22.

He first approached Francine Di Scala and Carol Simmons, asking them to coordinate the event. “I was excited and agreed to help right away,” said Di Scala. “The theme of the Mass, ‘One Body in Christ,’ says it all. We wish to encourage peace and love throughout the world.” Inviting parishioners from St. Mark’s and those of the surrounding area resulted in more than 700 people from all over the world, celebrating their gift of life and unique traditions as they worshipped. The rainbow of multi-colored costumes added an air of zeal and joy. The connection and unity among those gathered was evident.

Patricia Murawski, a parishioner of St Mark for 14 years, said, “I felt it was very important for everyone to share their heritage, for all of us to see the different ethnicities at St. Mark the Evangelist.” Murawski was impacted most by the number of languages and native costumes which were represented at the International Mass. “This mass has made us all aware of the diversity of cultures in our parish community. So many cultures, but together, we are One Body in Christ.”

Parishioners came from Queen of Peace and Blessed Trinity Parishes in Ocala and St. Timothy in Lady Lake. Father Leo Perera of St. Timothy concelebrated the Mass and proclaimed a reading in his native language, Sinhala, spoken in Sri Lanka. Hungary, China, Philippines, Poland, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Spain and Great Britain were represented in the liturgical celebration. “The U.S.A. is a country of immigrants, so it’s good for us to experience ‘A Little Pentecost’”, said Father Libiszewski, recalling the descent of the Holy Spirit endowing man with “the gift to speak the Gospel in all languages known to man.”

Harkening to Bishop John Noonan’s August 2019 letter, he quoted, “Everyone likes to hear a good story. I have found that, when I am surrounded by people, I simply listen and enjoy their stories about family, friends, love of God and people, faith. Everyone has a story to tell. What is your story? … Your story welcomes another into the arms of Christ … May our stories be a humble and radiant exultation, to make straight the path for those who hear.” Speaking in English, Spanish, and Polish, Father Libiszewski urged those gathered to share their stories. “Find the joy in making friends with the world; friends with many different faiths, love, peace, hope, joy, language, culture, pain, experience … To serve the Lord in giving of yourself in whatever way you have been blessed. Remember the Church of many nations and languages, and how God has blessed us through her.”

He added, “We are all Christians and our first language is love… helping everyone… This is my experience from living in the U.S.A. – the love of helping others. So during this First International Mass at St. Mark’s, we remember and celebrate that we are one in the body of Christ because as Christians our first language is love.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic September 25, 2019