The Washington Archdiocese yesterday released a list of lay participants in the Oct. 7 mass on the Mall celebrated by Pope John Paul II that includes nearly every conceivable Catholic constituency.
From a Vietnamese refugee to an Italian born housewife, the selection of lay people reflects church efforts to avoid excluding -- or offending -- any ethnic group. Those chosen represent every group in the Washington Archdiocese which meets regularly to hear mass in its native language, and those languages -- Korean, Spanish, French, Vietnamese, Italian, and Polish -- will be heard from the specially designed raised altar in front of the Smithsonian Castle.
The Rev. Ronald Jameson, who heads the committee that is planning the mass on the mall, said the archdiocese wanted to show, in the selection of the readers, "the local dimension, the American dimension and the universal dimension of the Church."
"We wanted to show that here in Washington, we are very American, but at the same time, there are these other communities which form a significant part of the church," he said.
The line-up includes seven people who will read the "general intercessions," or requests for prayers for church and civic leaders, families, and others. An additional two "lectors" and three "deacons" will be reading parts of the scripture or assisting in other aspects of the mass.Deacons are lay men -- not women -- who receive special training to participate in celebrating mass; all these roles are reserved for lay people in American churches.
Vincent Hollis, chairman of the board of the Black Secretariat in the Archdiocese, was one of those selected to be a reader. "Yes, I suppose I would have been quite upset if they hadn't used any blacks," he said. "But I won't be the only black so I don't necessarily feel I'm representing all of us."
Hollis, 49, is a professor in the zoology department at Howard University.
A black family has been chosen, as well as an Hispanic and a white one, to present gifts to the pope.
Some of the readers were selected after a "try-out" at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. One evening about two weeks ago the lights were turned on in the cavernous church proper, and one by one, the hopefuls marched up to the lectern to read a scripture passage. "It was like auditioning for a Braodway show," one person who tried out said.
Meanwhile, Jameson William Graham, chairman of Catholic University's drama department, and Bart Merella, a member of Jameson's committee, sat in the church's wooden pews and evaluated each lector.
Jameson said that the lectors were chosen not just on the basis of their reading ability and "physical presence" but because "they are good examples of Christian men and women and are active in their parishes."
"We were looking at the faith dimension as well as the service dimension . . . service to their church and fellow man," Jameson said.
The deacons, he said, were picked on the basis of their demonstrated ability to "handle themselves well under pressure," Jameson said. In any case, Cardinal William Baum had the final word.
Hollis did not have to audition for his part. "We meet with the Cardinal regularly, so he knows I can talk and read," he said.
Helen Wasowski, president of the Polish Catholic community's parish council, has been chosen to represent the several thousand area Polish Catholics as a reader -- but she may be unable to do it. As a writer and announcer for the Polich division of the Voice of America, she has been told by her boss that she may have to work that day, helping to cover the event of which she would like to be a part.
"I had written to Cardinal Baum asking for the opportunity for the Polish community to make itself known to the Holy Father," she said, "Perhaps that is how they got my name."
She said the Polish community plans to be on the Mall "en masse" wearing native dress and carrying flags and banners. "We would like also to present a bouquet of flowers, tied with a ribbon signed by all those who have prayed for him, but I don't know if we will be able to do that. I'm sure it would give him a lot of pleasure."
Mrs. Wasowski, 52, left Poland in 1939, and lived in France, England and Germany before settling here. Her husband is a professor of economics at Georgetown University.
Nadia Burkhardt, another reader, was born in Italy but married an American serviceman there who now works for the Federal Communications Commission. She works a few days a week as secretary to the Italian-speaking parish here, Holy Rosary at 3rd and F Streets NW. Matthew Lee, 39, is a Korean-born leader in the 1,500 member Korean Catholic Community here and a vice-president of Westat Inc., a computer programming firm.
Henry Froger is French, a director of an X-ray equipment firm in Baltimore; Octavio Ledon is vice-president of the Spanish Secretariat and works for the Centro Catolico Hispano.
In the case of William Graham, he was initially asked to help Jameson's committee select the readers, but ended up being chosen himself because of his work as assistant director of the Word of God Institute, Merella said. He will give the first reading at the mass.
Penny Lawrence, a black woman and librarian in the D.C. public schools will give the second reading.
Deacon Chris Ruggles, a seminarian at St. Bernadette's Church in Silver Spring will read the gospel. Deacon Hiram Haywood of the Church of the Incarnation in Northeast Washington will carry the processional cross at the beginning of the mass, and Deacon George Wilson of St. John Baptist de la Salle in Chillum will assist the pope at the altar.
But the reader who may have travelled the longest distance to Washington is Hai Dang Nguyen, now a budget analyst for Howard County, formeraly a bank president in Viet Nam. He fled Saigon in April, 1975, with 37 members of his family on an oil tanker loaded with fuel and several hundred refugees.
They went first to Singapore, where they were not allowed to stay, and then to an American military base in the Philippines, and then to Guam, traveling all the way on the tanker going four or five knots an hour. His wife, six children and one cousin were sponsored by the Columbia Cooperative Ministry in Columbia, Md., and now he is active in the Vietnamese Catholic community that meets at Sacred Heart church here.
"I would feel bad if we were not included," he said, "we represent the poor community much injured. We have to start all over from scratch and many of our compatriots are still waiting somewhere on the ocean waiting for some country to decide to accept them. It is an opportunity for us to pray for the future of Viet Nam and the boat people particularly."