SEATTLE – A colorful procession with images of saints beloved to 14 ethnic and cultural communities highlighted the Archdiocese of Seattle’s first Celebration of Our Saints Mass November 3.
“It was amazing. I felt like the richest person in the whole world,” said Christina Srinivasan, a native of India and member of Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Sammamish. “I suddenly remembered what a big family we are as Catholics.”
The Mass at St. James Cathedral, attended by an estimated 500-plus people, was celebrated by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, with Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg and priests of the archdiocese concelebrating.
“Yes, we have individual patron saints,” Archbishop Sartain said in his homily, “but our countries and cultures also have patron saints, who are instruments of God’s love and inspire us to follow Jesus, who pray for us, who give us hope when times are tough.”
Many of these patron saints, he said, were represented at the special liturgy. Their images were carried in the entry procession by people representing diverse communities: Chinese-American, Laotian-American, Filipino-American, Hispanic/Latino-American, Italian-American, Korean-American, Polish-American, Samoan-American, Native American, Irish-American, Indian-American, Kenyan-American (Swahili), Lebanese-American and African-American (see box for the list of saints honored).
The liturgy also celebrated diversity. The St. Peter Chanel Samoan Youth Choir sang. The prayers of the faithful were prayed by deacons in English, Filipino, Polish and Samoan. The gift bearers represented five continents — Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America. And an honor guard was provided by the Knights of Peter Claver (an African-American Catholic lay organization), the Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary and the Knights of Columbus.
The Mass was held on the feast of St. Martin de Porres, a saint who Archbishop Sartain said has held a special importance for his family. His father, Joseph Martin Sartain, adopted St. Martin de Porres as his patron while in his 30s.
St. Martin, son of a Spanish nobleman and a Panamanian ex-slave, was born in Lima, Peru, in 1579. He grew up in poverty; he eventually took vows as a Dominican lay brother and spent the rest of his life caring for the poor and sick of Lima. He died in 1639.
“There was always a statue of Martin in our home, we learned about him growing up, and one of my nephews now bears the name,” said the archbishop, who as a fourth-grader dressed up as St. Martin for a book report.
“A priest friend once said to me that he thinks our patron saints choose us, and I agree completely,” Archbishop Sartain said. “They want to help us come close to Jesus.”
Over the years, the archbishop said, he has been “chosen” by many saints — from St. Peter to St. Catherine of Siena. “They pray for me and offer inspiration through their writings and example.”
Celebrating the saints, Archbishop Sartain said, “reminds us that we are part of an eternal communion in Jesus Christ, and in him we are one with friends seen and unseen. We have more Christian guides and protectors than we imagine, and they are cheering us along the path to life eternal, a path we never travel alone.”
These cultural and ethnic communities honored their beloved saints at the November 3 Celebration of Our Saints Mass at St. James Cathedral:
African-American: St. Martin de Porres
Chinese-American: 120 Chinese Saints
Filipino-American: St. Pedro Calungsod, St. Lorenzo Ruiz
Hispanic/Latino-American: St. Juan Diego, St. Oscar Romero, Our Lady of Caacupe
Indian-American: St. Alphonsa, St. Chavara, St. Euphrasia
Irish-American: St. Bridget
Italian-American: St. Padre Pio, St. Frances Cabrini, Santa Maria della Neve
Kenyan-American (Swahili): St. Josephine Bakhita
Korean-American: 124 Korean Martyrs, St. Paul Chong Hasang & 103 Companions, St. Andrew Kim
Laotian-American: 17 Laotian Saints
Lebanese-American: St Charbel, St. Refka, St. Hardini
Native American: St. Kateri Tekakwitha
Polish-American: St. Pope John Paul II, St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Maximilian Kolbe
Samoan-American: St. Peter Chanel