Catholic News Service
Recently, a former colleague from my days working at newspapers passed away. Jack Ireland and I couldn’t have been more different. He was older, Irish, a sports nut and a sportswriter. Our schedules, as well as our interests, rarely crossed paths.
He was married, was all about family, sports, had deep roots in the community. I, on the other hand, was a Latina, single, had wandered from city to city, and country to country, throughout my career and life. I read the sports pages because I had to, not because I wanted to. He was pious, I was not.
On rare occasions, we passed each other at work but barely acknowledged one another.
One summer afternoon, I wandered into the last Sunday Mass available in English in Wilmington, Del. In summer, that Mass got crowded with all the folks who had returned late from the shore and were trying to meet their Sunday obligation. It happened to be near my apartment, but I rarely went there because I preferred Mass in Spanish on the other side of town.
I spotted Jack in the crowd. When we lined up to take Communion, I saw him look at me, close to him in the queue, and his facial expression registered surprise. After Mass, he came over to say hello.
We started talking. He was “the sports guy,” and I was the enemy, the editor who cut words, including some of his, on occasion, to make them fit on a page. But there was something about that moment, queuing up for Communion next to each other, that erased what many people would have perceived as great social differences between two people.
Despite a strong distance in a variety of beliefs and circumstances, Jack and I gathered around the banquet Jesus Christ set for us. And somehow, we bonded in that moment. Our differences were still there but something stronger united us.
As our nation becomes a bigger mix of people from every corner of the world, that mix is reflected in the language and cultural norms that take place during a variety of events in our Catholic parishes.
In my Washington, D.C., parish, you can listen to Sunday Mass in English, Spanish, Vietnamese or Creole. I can only imagine that the early disciples would have been thrilled to see that our faith has reached so many places. But do we see this richness of cultures in the same way our Christian ancestors would?
It goes without saying that there are often tensions when different languages, cultural norms and even styles of worship mix. But a community centered on Christ should be happy to see the spread of the Gospel and the fruit that the work of missionaries has yielded over the centuries as we witness the product of their work: followers from all walks of life, all shades of skin colors, all kinds of languages.
I’m lucky to have had a colleague who saw in someone like me a sister in Christ, despite all the things that many see as divisions, especially language and ethnic background. Multiculturalism is here to stay in our country. It was here before we became a nation, but in many respects, it’s a barrier we still struggle to overcome.
When I heard of Jack’s passing, I requested to keep him in the prayers of our church — at our Spanish-language Mass. Others saw in Jack an older, hot-tempered Irish man. I saw someone who saw in others the goodness that God called him to see.
It’s not our language, or the color of our skin, how much money we make at work, or even the type of work we do that unites us. It is Jesus Christ, in whom we break bread together, who unites us as brothers and sisters, as children of the same God.
Guidos is an associate editor at Catholic News Service.