Milwaukee church delivers multicultural Christmas message

For members of a Milwaukee Catholic parish, Dec. 25 marks a special day as Christians celebrate the birth of Christ.

St. Michael's Catholic Church in Midtown has a long history of providing refuge for weary travelers.

St. Michael's Catholic Church in Milwaukee

St. Michael's Catholic Parish at 24th and Cherry dates back to the 1890s, founded by German immigrants. Hints of its origins can still be found around in the ornate woodwork and stained glass windows.

While multilingual German Masses are no more, there are far more languages spoken among the diverse parish. It provides a source of strength for those who now call Milwaukee home.

"For us, we say the world comes together to pray in the language of faith. This is how we feel at St. Michael’s Parish," said Rev. Rafael Rodriguez, pastor at St. Michael's.

Christmas Day 2020 Mass at St. Michael's in Milwaukee

Eme Na and her parents lived in a refugee camp before coming to the U.S. and settling in Milwaukee in 2012. The then 12-year-old from Thailand knew no English, but today looks at her family -- and her faith -- as what helped them through the darkest times.

"My faith, as a Catholic, gives me a lot of strength to be able to survive through the refugee camp, but also in my journey coming here, and also learning English. It gives me a lot of strength and courage to be able to continue and live on," Na said.

Christmas Day 2020 Mass at St. Michael's in Milwaukee

There are nine different languages spoken in the St. Michael's community -- from Lao to Spanish -- spanning 11 different ethnic or national groups.

Some were turned away for Mass on Christmas morning as the socially-distanced pews quickly filled with people young and old to celebrate the birth of Christ.

"Mary and Joseph were looking for an inn. Here, at St. Michael's, people from all over the world are looking for a place to establish their home," said Rev. Rodriguez. "That’s a really close connection between the story of the incarnation and the story of St. Michael’s."

St. Michael's Catholic Church in Milwaukee

It is a centuries-old story that still resounds with the parish's beginnings and is present to this day.

"We are in a community of God. It happens that we’re many nations, coming to live together and understand to love one another," said Rev. Chakrit Micaphitak, associate pastor at St. Michael's.

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