The Most Reverend Terrence Prendergast S.J., Archbishop of Ottawa presided at the Homelands Mass on January 16, 2011. The Homelands Mass is among the most original and colourful celebration and features a procession into the Notre Dame Cathedral of traditional costumes and flags.
Slovaks for the fourth year in a row had one of the largest delegations in national costume. Our group led the procession and occupied the front pews. Many other Slovaks attended the Mass as participants.
The Mass was celebrated for its usual purpose but also as a “Thanksgiving Mass” for the First Nations of Canada, the populations that were here when our European and other peoples arrived. It was a Thanksgiving for Saint Kateri Tekakwithal, the Mohawk maiden. Pope Benedict proclaimed her not long ago the first Canadian saint who was an Indian. Thus the oldest and the newest peoples united in the Catholic ceremony.
The first homily reading was in Cree, delivered by Mary Lou Obudecero. The second was in Slovak, delivered by Hyacintha (Jacka) Belloni. She has always been one of the chief organizers of the costumed delegation Slovaks send to march in every year.
Among the ceremonial events was the First Nation's ceremony, where they went through the aisles with shells containing smoldering healing and holy herbs such as cedar, sage and sweet-grass, and wafting the smoke to the audience using long feathers.
Slovaks were chosen to deliver down the main aisle the Communion holy wines to Archbishop Terence Prendergast and the many ethnic priests serving the Mass with him.
National costumes for this Mass are de rigeur every year. And every year some groups come up with amazingly complicated and beautiful dress to impress all other nationalities. National foods are served in the Cathedral Hall downstairs after the Mass, and as usual Slovak food proved very popular with everyone.
The Archbishop spent much time at the reception that followed in the Cathedral Hall where traditional foods brought in by the different communities were shared among participants.
Text and Photos: Tibor Dej and Jan George Frajkor