Thursday, August 18, 2022

Tohatchi Christmas Concert Honors Local and Filipino Cultures

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Suzanne Hammons
Suzanne Hammons is the editor of the Voice of the Southwest and the media coordinator for the Diocese of Gallup. A graduate of Benedictine College in Kansas, she joined the Diocesan staff in 2012.

The third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday, takes its name from the Latin word for “rejoice”.

By holding their annual Christmas concert on Gaudete Sunday, the parishioners and staff of St. Mary Parish in Tohatchi aptly fulfill the call for joy during the Advent season.

The concert, which has been an annual event for eight years, was held this past December in honor of the local Filipino community. Sr. Pat Bietsch, OSF, a pastoral minister at St. Mary, has helped produce the concert since its conception. She says that by holding the concert in honor of local Filipino families, the parish could thank them for their commitment to the Tohatchi community.

“At present, there are about seven families of Filipinos in the Tohatchi area. They have been serving at the parish and in the schools for about ten years,” Bietsch said.

Families from other nearby parishes in the Diocese, including Gallup and Crownpoint, also traveled to Tohatchi for the concert.

“Filipinos are very tight and support each other,” Bietsch said. During the concert, they “sang in their [native] language both Christmas songs and traditional songs.”

The concert featured members of other cultural communities as well, including a jazz band and choir from Tohatchi High School, three Navajo singers, and a small group of performers from TAOS, a local Tohatchi community program.

“We sang mostly religious songs because I told the choir and the musicians this was our gift to the parish and our gift to God, so it was a religious event,” said Bietsch.

The attendees’ native cultures were also emphasized. For many communities in the Diocese, religion and culture are wholly intertwined, and the parish of Tohatchi is no different.

“We tried to include all the cultures that we could – we sang “Go Tell It on the Mountain” for our African American, Latino, English, Filipino, and Navajo [parishioners]. Other years we have had German and Sign Language.”

The final number of the night was a song chanted in Navajo.

“We had an excellent reaction to our concert because three of the Medicine People who were there asked to sing a Navajo Blessing Way song at the end,” said Bietsch.

Sr. Bietsch and the community at St. Mary can now count another successful Christmas concert among their blessings. And the families there, in the heart of the Navajo reservation, will continue to celebrate their religious and cultural heritage for many years to come.


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