The theme of unity was evident as parishioners and clergy from the English-, Korean- and Slovak-speaking communities gathered at St. Michael Church, Trenton, for a trilingual Mass, celebrated Dec. 10 by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.
PHOTO GALLERY: Trilingual Mass in St. Michael Church, Trenton
“What a great joy it is to celebrate Mass for these three communities who form one faith community,” Bishop O’Connell said at the start of Mass, which incorporated the three heritages and languages in the selection of music and Mass parts. Congregants were asked to recite the Lord’s Prayer in their native languages, and all rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to the children who sang a special song, “To God,” after Communion.
‘Prepare Ye The Way’
In his homily for the Second Sunday of Advent, Bishop O’Connell reflected on the readings, saying, "John the Baptist is a remarkable figure in the story of Advent.”
While Mark's Gospel does not tell the story of the Nativity, it does present John the Baptist as the prophet and preacher who prepared the way for the Messiah, the Bishop noted.
“John is the 'voice,' but Jesus is the 'Word' he speaks. John is the 'lamp,' but Jesus is the 'light' he shines, showing us the way through life,” Bishop O’Connell said. “As we prepare for Christmas, we must remember that the wood of the crib leads to the wood of the cross. Without the crib, there is no cross. Without the cross, there is no salvation."
St. Michael Church became the spiritual home to the three communities in 2006, almost a year after the church was merged with nearby St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville.
Prior to that, since the parish was established in 1921, St. Michael Parish had served as a worship site for the Slovak population living in the east and north sections of Trenton. The Slovak Catholic community has actually had a presence in the Trenton area since the 1880s.
While the numbers of Slovak Catholics had fluctuated over the years, in 2002, in response to a new wave of Slovak-speaking people moving into the area, Msgr. James Innocenzi, pastor of St. Michael Parish at the time, invited Father Vladimir Chripko, the provost of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in New York, to begin a new ministry among them.
The Church of the Korean Martyrs was established in 1986 to serve the needs of the Korean-speaking Catholics in the Trenton/Princeton area. Their original worship site had been St. Michael Church, but had changed locations twice, to St. Paul Church, Princeton, and later the former Blessed Sacrament Church, Trenton.
During a post-Mass reception, where Bishop O’Connell and parishioners feasted on homemade Korean and Slavic dishes, Father Lucius Son extended appreciation to the Bishop for his presence and for always paying close attention “to our community.”
“We appreciate his kindness, guidance and leadership,” said Father Son, who arrived in Trenton more than a year ago to serve the Korean Catholic parishioners.
Dagmar Sabova, a religious education catechist and member of St. Michael Parish since 2002, reflected on the beauty she sees in bringing three diverse communities together and being “able to profess our faith in our native languages.”
“This is all new to me,” Sabova said, noting that parish mergers and reconfigurations are not things she had ever witnessed in Slovakia.
“And to have a day like today when the Bishop comes is even better,” she said. “I’m thankful to God. I feel at home here.”
Parishioner Dominic Kang said the trilingual Mass served as an example of “how God works.”
Over the years, the three communities have grown much closer, where “we are no longer strangers to one or another, or shy to say hello,” he said.
“We may be of different cultures and speak different languages, but we’re all under one God, we’re all his children,” Kang said.
Father Peter Bujdos, who ministers to St. Michael’s English-speaking and Slovak-speaking parishioners, noted that before the pandemic, the tri-community had gathered for Mass on four previous occasions, and now, “the desire to come together has reemerged.”
“Bringing everyone together during Mass is akin to conducting an orchestra where unity creates a harmonious melody,” Father Bujdos said. “This shared experience is beneficial, reminding us that, despite our diverse origins, cultures and languages, we share the same God and faith. It is also an opportunity to bring us closer, be together and listen to each other.”
After Communion, youngsters from the parish gathered in the sanctuary to sing a special song, "To God," for Bishop O'Connell. Shown in back are Father Peter Bujdos, left, who serves the Slovak community, and Father Lucius Son, who ministers to the Korean community. Mary Stadnyk photo