Every fifth Sunday of the month, Our Lady of Assumption parish in Onehunga, Auckland celebrates diversity by having a multicultural Mass. 

Parish priest Fr Andrew Atonio, MF (Missionaries of Faith) started this tradition around four years ago to bring his diverse parishioners together.

“The thing is the people must know when they come here to worship that they all belong here. It doesn’t matter who you are,” he said.

The chairman of the committee that sets up the multicultural Mass is Joe Tuipolotu. He said the Mass is also a response to the call of Pope Francis to have unity in diversity.

“We are a gift from God. Our identity is our gift to God. By giving our talents and culture in the Mass, we are giving back to God,” he said.

The most recent multi-cultural Mass on September 30 started with a karanga. Parts of the Mass were sung in their own languages by three choirs — Samoan, Tongan and Filipino. The Sanctus (Holy Holy) was sung in Latin as a nod to the language of the universal
Church. Mo Maria was the final song.

The prayers of the faithful were prayed in Slovakian, Afrikaans, Rotuman, Tamil, Filipino, Samoan and English.

Multicultural Mass coordinator Peter Fuga recalled that when they first started holding the multicultural Mass, they would get the translation of the prayers mixed up.

“They would be speaking in their own language but [the prayer] was different on the screen,” he said with a laugh. No one noticed the difference though, he added.

Mr Fuga said that when Fr Atonio asked for the setting up of a multicultural Mass, he (Mr Fuga) had to do a lot of research and pulling people in.

“It was pretty much seeing random people in the church and asking them if they can provide their culture within the Mass,” he said.

Nowadays, people from outside the parish go to the Onehunga church to attend the Mass.

“It’s a very positive thing,” said Fr Atonio. He said the last multicultural Mass of the year would be on the last Sunday of December.