Monday, February 18, 2019
Cynthia Thuma - Florida Catholic
Photography: JONATHAN MARTINEZ | FC
FORT LAUDERDALE | On that Sunday, just as any other, South Florida’s Chinese community gathered for Mass at St. Jerome Church in Fort Lauderdale. But this Mass was extra special.
The community gathered Feb. 10 to celebrate the Lunar New Year followed by an ancestral veneration. After the veneration ceremony, the celebrants and the faithful were joined by more than 60 seminarians and faculty from St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami.
“This is the third time the seminarians have joined us here for this celebration,” said Helena Chan, vice president of the Chinese Apostolate of the Archdiocese of Miami. “We want them to come here and celebrate with us.”
“It’s almost becoming a tradition for the seminarians to join us,” said Father Peter Lin, a parish priest at St. Jerome, who was the principal celebrant for the Mass. “Last year they weren’t able to join us, but they’ve been here a few times. This year they weren’t able to be here for the Mass because they had a day of reflection beforehand, but they were able to join us afterward.”
After the liturgy in which many members of the congregation wore red, a traditional color signifying good fortune, the ancestral veneration began, a solemn ceremony in which symbolic gifts are offered up for departed family members. On a table placed in front of the altar was a small shrine, a bud vase with two pink roses, two lighted candles, a bowl with apples, oranges and bananas, incense and three small cups of wine. Father Lin carefully lit the sticks of incense to start the ceremony.
“We burn the incense and our prayers go up and show they are present with us in the moment,” he said.
He then offered up the remaining gifts to conclude the ceremony. After saying their own silent prayers, the congregants headed off for St. Jerome School’s cafeteria, where the celebration of the start of the Year of the Pig was just heating up. The traditional dragon dance featured taiko drummers and three acrobatic dragons.
The celebrants, congregants and seminarians applauded the performers’ efforts and spent the rest of the afternoon dining, playing games and enjoying each other’s company. Red envelopes, which bore small gifts, were awarded as prizes during the games and contests.
Faith, family and fellowship featured prominently in the enthusiastic, spirited and spiritual afternoon.
“This is all part of the tradition,” Chan said. “This is our tradition for us. It’s what makes us Chinese.”