Intercultural Mass and festival at St. Thomas More Parish celebrates the language of Pentecost

  • Written by Megan Carroll
  • Published in Local
At the 10:30 a.m. Pentecost Sunday Mass at St. Thomas More Parish in Lynnwood, members of Hula Ohana offered intercessory prayers in dance and songs in English and Hawaiian. Photo: Stephen Brashear At the 10:30 a.m. Pentecost Sunday Mass at St. Thomas More Parish in Lynnwood, members of Hula Ohana offered intercessory prayers in dance and songs in English and Hawaiian. Photo: Stephen Brashear

LYNNWOOD – On Pentecost Sunday, the 10:30 a.m. Mass at St. Thomas More Parish included prayers in Vietnamese, Spanish, Swahili and Nigerian, and Hawaiian liturgical dance. Afterward, parishioners celebrated their parish’s diversity with an intercultural festival.

Father Stephen Okumu, pastor of the Lynnwood parish for nearly a year, said he suggested moving the annual celebration to Pentecost Sunday, when the Mass readings reflect the linguistic bond shared by various peoples through the coming of the Holy Spirit.

“As long as I’m here, I’d like to have this intercultural celebration on Pentecost Sunday,” Father Okumu said.

Father Stephen Okumu
St. Thomas More's pastor, Father Stephen Okumu, greets parishioners after an intercultural Pentecost Mass at the Lynnwood parish on June 4. Photo: Stephen Brashear

Eleven years ago, Ellen and Eddie Abellera organized the first festival to recognize their fellow parishioners’ cultural diversity: Filipino, Hispanic, Indian, Vietnamese, Pakistani, German, Irish, Korean, African and more.

“We thought it would be wonderful for each community to showcase their talents, traditions and history,” Ellen Abellera said.

This year’s theme for the June 4 festival was “Living the real presence of Christ in community building.” Parishioners displayed items from their home countries, shared traditional food and performed songs and dances from their cultures. For younger parishioners, the festival included games, face painting, a balloon artist, and an art and essay contest.

multicultural festival
The June 4 festival's theme was “Living the real presence of Christ in community building.” Parishioners displayed items from their home countries, shared traditional food and performed songs and dances from their cultures. Photo: Stephen Brashear

Longtime parishioner JoanMarie Hughes said she is proud to belong to a parish that values cultural diversity. For more than 10 years, she has directed the parish’s hula liturgical dance ministry. On Pentecost Sunday, Hughes and her group, Hula Ohana, offered intercessory prayers in dance and songs in English and Hawaiian.

“There’s something so mysterious about music and dancing, and how we are touched in ways we cannot explain except through the Holy Spirit,” Hughes said. “We are simply worshiping, dancing and praying with our entire beings for the Lord, and praying with the community.”

The Intercultural Festival is just one way St. Thomas More creates a supportive and accepting environment that helps people feel they’re a part of the parish, Abellera said.

“Different cultures have different nuances. For instance, in my Asian culture, we want to be asked to be part of the mystery,” Abellera explained. “Everyone wants to feel important and special to the parish.”

Hula Ohana dancers at Mass
Hula Ohana group members at the June 4 Mass. Photo: Stephen Brashear