By TIM BULLARD
CONWAY — With food galore and bilingual readings, parish members and friends of St. James Church celebrated a mission Sunday Jan. 28 with the theme, “We are the Body of Christ,” along with a Festival of Peoples gathering.
The mission continued through the week with Mass and topics such as “Unity in Diversity” and “Church for the Third Millennium.”
St. Mary of Namur Sister Pat Brown, director of Family Life Ministry for the Diocese of Savannah, Ga., and former director of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Jackson, Miss., and Piarist Father Mario Vizcaino, director of the Southeast Pastoral Institute (SEPI) in Miami also participated in activities.
Father Vizcaino gave the homily Sunday morning, calling parish members to work together and to attend the mission presentations.
“I think that this event is something that is very prophetic because we need gestures like this to show people that humanity can live together in peace, in brotherhood, in friendship and in solidarity,” said Father Vizcaino, a native of Cuba. “We need to call the attention of the entire world that it is crazy to be fighting against each other. We are brothers and sisters. We are one family, and God is our common Father, so we need to learn to live as brothers and sisters in this world.”
Jeff Mevissen, a parish council member, said of the event, “It’s multiculturalism. We have had Encuentro which is similar. It’s a kind of spiritual renewal. It takes us out of our normal routines and refreshes us.”
Parishioner Steven Stokilo attended the gathering with his wife, Isabel. He said, “I think this is a wonderful thing. This is a coming together of an international community that does exist.”
Jazmin Rivera, 12, lives in Conway after moving to America a year ago. “It’s something pretty good that’s happening,” said the Mexico native, who added that a year ago she could not speak English.
Father ‘Rick LaBrecque, pastor of St. James Church, said he was nervous when he realized that the event had been scheduled on Super Bowl Sunday, “but we knew people were really interested. It has made us so much more aware.”
He continued, “We knew that there is such a tremendous variety of background in the Catholic Church, especially here in the South, but just seeing today how many people are here, how many different heritages are represented, somehow God takes unity out of that by bringing people together. It’s a long list.”
Among the countries represented were Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Germany, France, Canada, Nigeria, Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, the Philippines, Argentina and Jamaica.