Washington, Sep 21: The feast of the Nativity of Our Lady was celebrated on September 11, by members of the Mangalorean Catholic Association of Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia (MCA-DMV). The annual celebration took place in person this year at the St Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Indian Head, MD, with a medium sized crowd. Last year, the event was celebrated in conjunction with MCA East Coast USA and held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As announced earlier, MCA DMV took all the precautions to hold the event by practicing social distancing, adhering to the local guidelines and wearing masks, as needed, to keep families safe. The MCA committee member Nirmala Pinto the MCA treasurer Nicole Racadag took care of registration of members and guests as they came in. The service began with the veneration of Infant Mary at the Church’s outdoor grotto at 11:15 am. While the men and women arrived in traditional Indian attire, the children lined up outside the church carrying flower baskets with fresh flowers from their gardens to venerate baby Mother Mary. The choir was led by MCA vice president Clint Almeida and MCA secretary Reynel Castelino, with Malin Mendonca giving accompaniments on the keyboard and guitars for the Konkani hymns ‘Sokkad Sangatha Melyan’ and ‘Moriyek Hogolsiyan.’ Fr Brian Coelho, the parish priest of St Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church and Fr Tony D’Souza, parish priest of St Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Washington DC, blessed the children and the ‘Noven.’
Then, the priests led the procession of attendees into the Church for the Mass. The Mass brochure, outlining the programme and hymns, was designed and distributed by Merlyn Mathias, MCA committee member, prior to the service. The Mass was delivered in both Konkani and English, with the hymns being sung mostly in Konkani. During the Mass, a special tribute was paid to the 2,977 lives lost on September 11, 2001, to the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC. The choir team sang as families with children lined up for the offertory reading with various gift items, as per tradition. At the end of the Mass, MCA president V James Dante thanked the members for their attendance and participation, despite the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic.
The attendees then proceeded to the Church Hall, which had been decorated by MCA volunteers. The dinner tables were decorated with banana leaves and other traditional display items by Anil and Priscilla D’Souza. Joe Pinto had managed the kitchen and kept the food warm, while the Mass was being celebrated. Fr Brian Coelho blessed the traditional ‘Noven Jevon,’ prepared by MCA families, and everyone began feasting on a menu that included Sambar, Pathrode, Moong curry, Bende Sukkha, Sono and Tendli Sukkha (Black Channa), Sango (Beans), Karam (cucumber and coconut mix), rice and pickle. The meal was topped off with the delicious, traditional Mangalurean dessert, ‘vorn.’
Following the lunch, attendees relished the opportunity to reconnect with each other in-person after more than 18 months of staying apart. According to one of the MCA members, “I felt very safe attending because I knew the MCA would enforce social distancing policies by requiring face masks indoors, separating people in the church pews, and organizing contactless activities like Karaoke and Housie. Mostly, I was excited to share our Mangalurean traditions with my four-year-old daughter. I didn’t want her to miss out on the activities I did growing up.”
Later, the committee organized a Housie game, followed by everyone enjoying freshly made tea and savory snacks samosas and spring rolls. The event concluded with president Dante thanking the MCA committee members and attendees who prepared food, performed, organized the event, and volunteered to set up and tear down. “We had this event despite the many challenges that are being presented by the COVID-19 Delta variant in the USA,” said Dante. “We are grateful to our members and their families for helping us keep up our traditions alive, even though we are so far away from India.”