Dominican Republic, U.S. liturgies same, differ
Cultural variances mark the ways in which we worship
By Tony Staley
ELIAS PIÑA, Dominican Republic - Sunday Mass in the Green Bay
Diocese's two mission parishes in the Dominican Republic is, in
many ways, just like Sunday Mass back in Wisconsin. In other
ways, it's nothing like it.
The churches - St. Therese at Elias Piña and St. Isidore at El
Llano - are strikingly similar to those in the Green Bay Diocese.
The Elias Piña church is arranged as are many older U.S. churches
with rows of pews running front to back. But the benches along
the side wall - perpendicular to the rows of pews - facing into
the church are not the norm in Wisconsin.
Large doors in the back of church and on both sides stand open,
in testimony to the tropical heat. Ceiling fans help circulate
the air. Bare light bulbs hang from the ceiling.
El Llano's fan-shaped stone church is less than a decade old.
The differences between the liturgies in the Green Bay Diocese
and its missions largely stem from culture.
These differences become apparent when looking at the worshipers.
A festival of colors springs forth from the lively congregation,
starting with the orange, green and red ribbons adorning the hair
of young girls to the nice dresses, skirts, blouses and shirts
most worshipers wear, in sharp contrast to the casual attire
common in many U.S. churches.
The congregation is also overwhelmingly young, hardly surprising
given the large numbers of children in the Dominican Republic
where families of four to 10 children are the norm. Meanwhile,
adult women outnumber adult men by perhaps 10-1.
Although Mass won't begin for several minutes, the choir is
already singing to the accompaniment of guitars and drums. Words
to the songs are projected on the sanctuary wall. There are no
missalettes or hymnals.
In El Llano, they rely only on drums and other percussion
instruments, but the singing is no less enthusiastic or
During the sprinkling rite in both churches, the congregation
sings, claps and waves their hands as Fr. Mike - Padre Miguel -
Seis, an Antigo native and pastor of the two parishes - uses
freshly cut greens to splash abundant quantities of water on the
Fr. Seis delivers his homily with a microphone in his left hand,
leaving his right hand free to accentuate questions he asks
worshipers, who call out their responses.
Several young people, ages infant through grade school, are
baptized in El Llano. One of the smallest isn't thrilled by the
procedure - hardly surprising considering the vigor with which
Fr. Seis baptizes. Rather than just pour a little water on the
forehead, he rubs it into their heads as if he were cleansing
them physically as well as spiritually.
It's then the congregation's turn to renew their baptismal vows.
In keeping with their custom, they both say and show that they
denounce sin and Satan by a sort of double-hand backward wave
bringing their hands, palm up, from their waist to their
shoulders putting evil behind them.
At the Kiss of Peace, the congregation becomes mobilized, moving
around to greet all those who are near and making a special point
to welcome their visitors from the States. At least one man in El
Llano greeted the visitors by saying, "Welcome to my country."
At the Lamb of God, the assembly claps the beat while singing.
Another difference can be seen at Communion where the numbers of
communicants are far less than in the States. The reason, says
Fr. Seis, is that many people are in irregular marriages and thus
are unable to receive Communion.
But the biggest thing that comes across is the sense of
reverential excitement from a people who feel they are in the
presence of God and who want to celebrate that reality with joy.
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