Easter: A time of renewal and unity

Published: Saturday, April 19 2014 2:30 p.m. MDT

Rachel To, 5, offers gifts of bread and wine during Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City Thursday, April 10, 2014.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — In the early 1990s a man who was terminally ill sought out his local pastor in San Francisco to find God, the Catholic church and the community.

"For him … the priest was a sign of unity. It was a means for him to reconnect," said the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City, who was the pastor of the man's congregation at the time.

In the weeks before the man died, Bishop Wester helped him re-establish a positive relationship with his community and with God.

The bishop related the experience as he spoke to priests, deacons and congregants gathered together for the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, in anticipation of Holy Week. And it is an apt metaphor for Christians throughout the world during Easter who lose themselves in worship together as they point to Jesus Christ, regardless of their particular congregation or denomination.

"Remember He loves us each and calls us by name," Bishop Wester said at the beginning of the Mass.

The diversity in the worshipers was represented by Latino and Vietnamese Catholic congregations assembled together for the bilingual Chrism Mass, where all the holy oils that will be used during the year are blessed.

"Jesus is referred to as the Anointed One. That's an oil word," Bishop Wester said. With his anointing, Jesus set the oppressed free and cured blindness.

During Mass, it is easy to forget language or country of origin differences, said Karina Del Castillo, assistant of Hispanic ministry at the Cathedral of the Madeleine.

"We live in the same faith in that moment," she said. "The same faith. The same feelings."

Del Castillo, who was raised in Argentina and Peru, said it doesn't matter to her what language Mass is spoken in, because it always gives her a chance to pray, meditate and be in community with other people.

"I feel a lot of things because you can feel God in everyone. In the people. In the Mass," she said. "When you're feeling those kind of things, your life is like a piece of heaven."

Martin Alcocer, who was raised in Mexico and later moved to the United States, appreciated the bilingual Chrism Mass because it allowed him to worship in the same language in which he learned to pray.

"Whenever you go to pray, in my case, I feel more comfortable or I feel better if I pray in Spanish, in my language."

However, he recognized the importance of being together with others who speak other languages.

"It doesn't matter if you are Asian or Latino or Caucasian. Everybody is a part of one big community. It doesn't matter that we are different. We have many things in common, and we get together to celebrate the things that we have in common," he said.

Latinos are the largest minority group in the state, making up 13.3 percent of Utah's population and 16.9 percent of the United States population, according to 2012 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Latinos comprise about one-third of U.S. Catholics.

Catholicism is the religion that most U.S. Hispanics identify with, according to a Gallup poll conducted between January 2012 and January 2013. Catholicism draws in 47 percent of those 18 to 29, 56 percent of those 30 to 49, 60 percent of ages 50 to 64 and 61 percent of those 65 and older. Protestant Christians are next most common, attracting 29 percent of those 18 to 29 and 27 percent of those 30 and older.

Latinos make up a smaller but growing segment of the LDS Church in the United States, comprising about 7 percent of the church's membership, or just shy of 450,000 people, according to Pew.

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