Monsignor Kevin Irwin , dean, theology and religious studies, was quoted in an Aug. 19 Catholic News Service article about the National Association of Pastoral Musicians regional convention in Los Angeles earlier this month. Monsignor Irwin gave the opening address. See his comments in the article below.

Understanding other cultures seen as key to meaningful celebrations

From: Catholic News Service Date: August 19, 2008LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Building relationships among parish ethnic groups is critical to meaningful multicultural celebrations, said presenters at the National Association of Pastoral Musicians western regional convention Aug. 5-8 in Los Angeles.

"The whole experience of getting to know people and feeling comfortable and feeling welcome is key," said Pedro Rubalcava, liturgical music composer and director of Hispanic ministries for OCP, a nonprofit publisher of liturgical music and worship resources based in Portland, Ore.

He presented the Aug. 6 keynote address with Franciscan Brother Rufino Zaragoza, a liturgical music consultant and composer.

Rubalcava said he often asks people if they allow themselves to enter into a relationship with those who have different backgrounds and languages.

"How do we enter into not only relationship, but how do we recognize that as Christians we share the same baptism and Eucharist? This is important for us," declared Rubalcava.

One way to share stories with one another, he noted, "is to share our song. Another way is to share our food (or) home (and) another way is to share our images and the experience of what it is to be Catholic."

By forming cross-cultural relationships, he added, "we're going to fall in love with each other and we're going to create a new people -- a people where there is no difference, a people who have fallen in love not only with each other but have fallen in love with God."

The convention, the third regional National Association of Pastoral Musicians assembly, drew nearly 550 participants from 40 states and three foreign countries.

Music and liturgical ministers attended workshops, prayer services and special musical events to gain a better understanding of current issues their ministries are facing, with particular focus on the church's multicultural journey -- something Brother Zaragoza said the U.S. bishops have been writing about for the past 35 years.

"The journey is not really a liturgical question, (or) a musical question; it's a spiritual question," said Brother Zaragoza.

The bishops' teaching on liturgical multiculturalism, he pointed out, has evolved over the decades to focus on the needs of parish cultural groups, such as having resources to worship in their own language, and the idea of "mutual reciprocity."

"That is when we come with the group and we say, 'I have something to offer you (and your group), and you have something to offer us," he said.

He recently attended a multicultural liturgical gathering in Oceanside where the participants discussed the transition process of moving from multilingual music to multicultural liturgy to intercultural liturgy.

"We move from song (multilingual) to dance, art, reverence, posture, gesture (multicultural) to intercultural, where people start learning from each other and they develop a unique way of praying specific to that diocese, specific to that parish. And what that is, is border crossing," Brother Zaragoza said.

"Border crossing is risky, but it's called for by our church (because) we're following the path of Jesus, (who) was a border crosser," he said.

In his Aug. 5 opening address on "Authentic Worship in Spirit and in Truth," Msgr. Kevin Irwin addressed liturgical reform, church renewal and some of the issues that seem to polarize even those with deep faith.

"Liturgy is all about being and becoming one spirit and one body in the church," said Msgr. Irwin, dean of theology and religious studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington. "Liturgy serves God. It's all about worshipping God and sanctifying the church."

The uniqueness of the liturgy is that it "draws us into the mystery of God," said Msgr. Irwin.

In her Aug. 7 keynote talk, Mercy Sister Cynthia Serjak, veteran pastoral musician and author from Pennsylvania, urged pastoral musicians to incorporate three musical terms in their approach to serving their communities: resonance, articulation and modulation.

Resonance, she said, suggests people's relationship with sound -- in particular, as musicians, with God's voice through Scripture and in song with our Sunday assemblies.

Articulation offers a way to shape how that message, the word of God, is presented so that it is heard clearly, makes sense and enables participation, she said. Modulation presents a change (to a higher key) that may be unnerving or uncomfortable, but is designed "to stretch us, to lead to new places we could never imagine," she explained.

She cited the opening of the Second Vatican Council document "Gaudium et Spes," the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, which noted: "The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men of our time ... are (those) of the followers of Christ as well."

She called this "a pivotal chord," indicating that the church could retreat behind its own walls no longer, that its people had been called to share the good news with the entire world.

As ministers of God's word, said Sister Serjak, "we are called to resonate with kindness and compassion, to sing songs of the new Jerusalem in our streets, to articulate God's justice, and to modulate that message into the building of a new heaven and earth."

###2008 (c) Catholic News Service Reprinted with permission of CNS