REDLANDS—For many Arabic speaking Catholics in Inland Southern California, attending Mass in their native language requires long drives and late nights.
On Sept. 23 this community rejoiced at finding a home in the Diocese of San Bernardino when it held its first Mass in Arabic at The Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Redlands. The day was made all the more special by the honored presence of Archbishop Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who concelebrated the Mass. Archbishop Twal oversees all Latin Rite Catholics in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Cyprus.
“This community has been waiting for something like this for a long time,” said Fadi Faraj as he distributed worship aides to those entering the Columbia Street church for Mass. “It will definitely bring the community closer together.”
In addition to holding a weekly 12:30 p.m. Mass at the parish’s Columbia Street church, the Arabic Catholic Community will hold Bible studies and annual celebrations there. The community will continue to hold a Saturday evening Mass at St. Joseph Parish in Pomona. But that did not work well for those living an hour or more away, especially families with young children, said Dr. Ayed Khoder, who played a key role in bringing the Arabic speaking community to Holy Name of Jesus.
“For the last two months they were asking me, ‘when do we start,’ ” he said. “They are thirsty.”
The local Arabic-speaking community, which includes those from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, filled the church to capacity and then some for the first Mass. Father Oscar Reynoso, priest minister at The Holy Name of Jesus, told those who attended that the parish is also grateful to receive them.
“Because of your presence here we are a more complete family,” Fr. Reynoso said at the beginning of the Mass.
Sister Mary Garascia, C.P.P.S., Pastoral Coordinator of The Holy Name of Jesus, said discussions about bringing the Arabic-speaking community to the parish began during the summer. With no afternoon Masses held at the Columbia Street church, it was an easy fit, she said.
“We are even more, ‘one Church of many people,’ ” she said. “I’m delighted.”