Cultural celebrations highlight diversity of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton community

  • Written by Mary Louise Van Dyke
  • Published in Local
Parishioners from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish’s Indian community carry a statue of Our Lady of Health for the Sept. 9 celebration of Our Lady of Velankanni. Photo: Courtesy St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish Parishioners from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish’s Indian community carry a statue of Our Lady of Health for the Sept. 9 celebration of Our Lady of Velankanni. Photo: Courtesy St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish

BOTHELL – September at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish means celebrating the diversity of its parishioners with prayer, dance and food.

The Sept. 9 celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Velankanni (or Vailankanni) was organized by the Bothell parish’s East Indian community, while Sept. 30 brings the Feast of Filipino Saints.

The celebrations are all about “the blessings, the faith, we have in here as one big family,” said parishioner Jeya Amalachandra.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, celebrating its 30th anniversary in October, is a multicultural community that includes parishioners with Hispanic, Vietnamese, Chinese, European and other backgrounds. In December, parishioners will celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and host a Simbang Gabi Mass.

St Elizabeth Ann Seton multicultural FilipinoMembers of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish’s Filipino community carry statues of Filipino saints during the 2016 Feast of Filipino Saints. This year’s celebration is Sept. 30. Photo: Courtesy St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish

The parish began celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Velankanni in 2006, at the suggestion of then-Deacon Jose Ugalde (since ordained a priest and serving as parochial vicar), Amalachandra said.

This year, the observance began with a novena of rosaries to commemorate Marian apparitions in India in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. On Sept. 9, a special Mass was held, featuring a procession with a statue of Our Lady of Good Health (as she is also known), and songs sung in Tamil. Afterward, parishioners dined on traditional Indian food and learned more about Indian culture. Women wearing brightly colored sarees performed Thiruvathira, a traditional dance, and young people performed a semi-classical dance praising God, Amalachandra said.

Hosting the annual event “gives us the chance to meet other Indian families and talk and share,” she said. “I feel like I’m in my hometown going to church.”

But it is also “a nice opportunity for the parish people to get to know the [Indian] community and the feast we celebrate,” said parishioner Jenifer Arulnathan.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton multicultural IndianTraditional Indian attire is worn by parishioners of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Bothell for the annual Our Lady of Velankanni celebration Sept. 9. Photo: Courtesy St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish

On Sept. 30, parishioners will get a taste of Filipino Catholic culture during the Feast of Filipino Saints. The celebration honors San Lorenzo Ruiz and San Pedro Calungsod, who both lived in the 1600s and died for their faith, said Gerry Apin, president of the parish’s Simbang Gabi Ministry.

The 5 p.m. Vigil Mass will feature music and readings in Tagalog, with a reception afterward. Apin looks forward to sharing the festival with fellow parishioners, who are “more than just a faith family,” she said. “The people I go to church with, I consider them close friends.”