Swindon's International Mass

 St Peter's in West Swindon like many others in the Clifton Diocese has parishioners from a huge number of countries. There are sizeable numbers of people from particular parts of Africa and Asia as well as groups from various European countries and the Americas. Once a year we celebrate our unity in diversity with a Mass which is followed by a bring-and-share meal. This year the parish was delighted to have with us Ray Fisher, the mayor of Swindon and his wife Christine who joined in whole heartedly in our celebration. It was no occasion for preconceptions about how worship should be undertaken but the mayor and his wife entered into the celebration with enthusiasm. Our parish priest, Father Michael Saunders concelebrated Mass with Father Bosco Lobo MSFS from Goa in India. Father Bosco is Catholic Chaplain to the Royal Air Force at nearby Lyneham. Many of our parishioners came in their national costumes and the church was a sea of different colours. Welcomes at the very start of Mass were given in half a dozen languages, Intercessions were offered in as many again and the congregation sang in more languages than any of us knew. It all sounded very good. The idea was that everyone should hear their own language at least once. Our offertory procession was the chance for our East African parishioners to dance and sing and whoop around the church to the delight of all the younger members of the parish and no small number of the rest of us. It was noted that a number of Kenyan contributors to the singing were asked if they could give lessons later on just how they made the loud sounds of approval that they used instead of clapping. Father Michael said a large section of the Mass in Latin before three choirs taken from parishioners from Africa, the Philippines and India sang in their own languages during the distribution of communion. Obviously the event had attracted a number of people from other parishes, all of whom were very welcome, but the vast majority of people involved were from St Peter's parish. It was a very real expression of the varied make up of the parish. There were more than 300 people at the Mass and a large number of them came into the Parish Centre afterwards for a magnificent meal with dishes from everywhere. Kenyans ate Haggis and the Irish tried curries much hotter than they were used to. Everyone considered the event a huge success; not least the Mayor who expressed the real encouragement that he took away from the event. The Mayor and his wife were among the very last to go. It was great to have them with us. Lots of people worked hard to create the event but special mention should be made of Melba Sheffield and Suzanne Bullimore. We owe them our sincere thanks.

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