Prayer service celebrates racial diversity of diocese


By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator

Mellifluous chords of unity filled St. Joseph Cathedral on June 3 during a prayer service that brought together people from all cultures and ethnicities.

Dancers and drummers from the N’Fungola Sibo African Dance Drum Company in New Orleans electrified the crowd at the beginning of the Our Unity in Diversity and Our Diversity in Unity on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood Our Lord prayer service June 3 at St. Joseph Cathedral. Photos by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator


The 90-minute Our Unity in Diversity and Our Diversity in Unity on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Our Lord was sponsored by the Diocesan Racial Harmony Commission.

“It is important when we come together and I think (today) is especially important because we brought together all parts of the diocese, all different races, nationalities, languages,” said Father Tom Clark SJ, chairman of the Racial Harmony Commission and pastor at Immaculate Conception Church in Baton Rouge. “Especially on this day, Corpus Christi, when we celebrate Jesus as the one who gathers us in unity.”

The service featured a mixture of culturally diverse music, and Scriptures read in a variety of languages, including English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Ewe (Ghana), Igob (Nigeria), Portugese and  Telugu (India).

Prayer readings were equally as diverse, including English, Igno, Portugese (southwest Africa), Telugu (India) and Spanish.

Even before the service began the crowd was electrified when members of the N’Fungola Sibo African Dance Drum Company that included dancers processed down the aisle.


Immediately after the service, the rapturous beat of the drums once again cascaded throughout the cathedral.

Rousing music was provided by the combined choirs of Immaculate Conception, St. Francis Xavier Church in Baton Rouge and St. Paul the Apostle Church in Baton Rouge; the Hispanic Apostolate choir; and the choir from Christ the King Church and Catholic Center in Baton Rouge choir.

“We are church, and we are celebrating church in a very powerful, unique, way,” said Bishop Robert W. Muench during his closing remarks. “As a Catholic Church, we are not a local church, we are not a state church, we are not a country church, we are not a national church. We are a church universal and this is what we are celebrating in a very powerful way.”

Bishop Muench said several images came to mind during the service, including those of a rainbow, prism and even a kaleidoscope. He noted that in “our uniqueness is our strength. Our diversity enriches us.


Holy Rosary Church in St. Amant pastor Father Josh Johnson, left, and Deacon Alfred Adams, director of the Office of Black Catholics, kneel during benediction of the Eucharist during the Our Unity in Diversity and Our Diversity in Unity on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Our Lord prayer service at St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge on June 3. Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator


“We have the gift of one another. This is who we are and who God expects us to be.”

And he said reflecting that image beyond the church into society is a requirement and commandment of God.

The service also included eucharistic adoration and a brief benediction.

“It was just wonderful for us to be able to experience our diversity, experience the richness that God has gifted us with,” Father Clark said. “And to know that we are all one and that we all worship one God, one Jesus, and we are part of the same church.”

“When we all come together, we see how beautiful this is, how many different experiences are encompassed here,” he added.

“In the richness of our celebration, adoration and powerful music, beautiful sense of togetherness, I hope every one leaves this mother church different than we came because we have been in a special presence,” Bishop Muench said. “I’m so glad I spent this time in this place with you and I will never forget it.”