Mass celebrated for Catholics of African descent

CAMDEN — The fourth annual Eucharistic celebration in the African traditions took place Sunday, Nov. 1, at St. Bartholomew Church here.

Some 200-250 African-born and African-American Catholics in the Diocese of Camden came together for Mass and fellowship, to share their spirituality and culture.

Pre-mass festivities included a dance by the Aqwaaba ministry of St. Bartholomew’s called the “Hallowing of the Space,” intended to purify the church and ward off evil spirits before the liturgy.

Mass readings and psalms were performed in different African dialects, such as Bemba (Zambia), Igbo (Nigeria), and Grebo (Liberia). General intercessions were read by individuals representing African countries such as Haiti, Nigeria, Zambia, Senegal, Liberia, Cote D’/Ivoire and Rwanda.

Bishop Joseph A. Galante was the principal celebrant and homilist. His presence “meant a lot” to the African community, noted Deacon Vincent Okoro.

Joining the bishop on the altar were Father Gerard Marable, pastor, St. Bartholomew; Msgr. Leonard Scott, St. Aloysius, Oaklyn; Father Joachim Oforchukwu, Blessed John XXIII, Blue Anchor; Father Rico Ducle, St. Joan of Arc, Camden; Deacon Bill Johnson, St. Teresa, Bridgeton; and Deacon Okoro, St. Andrew the Apostle, Gibbsboro.

Cultural fellowship took place after Mass in St. Bartholomew’s parish hall. Attendees brought various dishes, native to their own country, to share with everyone.

As the Eucharist is the center of Christian life, commented Deacon Okoro, chairman of the event, “celebrating this in our own tradition shows others who we are in God. Who we are is represented by how we celebrate our oneness as people of God. This shows our children, grandchildren and the Diocese of Camden, where we come from.”

The day “gave the African-born and African-American communities a chance to share the gifts and talents with the entire diocese,” said Carolyn Jenkins, director of Black Catholic Ministry for the Diocese of Camden.

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