Mass in the African traditions

Mass in the African traditions

Photos by Alan M. Dumoff

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Juliet Njoku, member of the Black Catholic Ministry Commission, Diocese of Camden, was the cantor for the sixth annual Mass in the African traditions, celebrated Saturday, Oct. 22, at St. Michael Church, Atlantic City. Left, Msgr. Leonard Scott offers the chalice to Bishop Joseph Galante.

Bishop Joseph Galante presided at the sixth annual Mass in the African traditions, celebrated Saturday, Oct. 22, at St. Michael Church, Atlantic City.

Msgr. Leonard Scott, pastor of Emmaus Catholic Community and member of the Black Catholic Ministry Commission, concelebrated with a number of African priests from the Camden Diocese and the archdioceses of Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. They were assisted by Deacon Vincent Okoro and Deacon William Johnson.

The congregants were welcomed by Father Jeffery Cesarone, administrator.

Before the Mass, children and adults from the Akwaaba Prayer Group headed by Rachel Beugre of St. Josephine Bakhita Parish, Camden, performed a hallowing of the space. During this African tradition, children dressed as evil spirits were cast out of the sanctuary before the Mass began.

The Mass began with a processional hymn sung by Nigerian singers and Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus (from Bryn Mawr, Pa.) and led by Juliet Njoku of the Black Catholic Ministry Commission. Representatives of Haiti, Nigeria, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire and other countries read the prayers of the faithful.

Parts of the Mass were sung by the combined choirs of St. Monica’s Parish in Atlantic City. Music was also provided by the Liberian community.

The Mass also included a thanksgiving procession. This African tradition of offering the harvest of the first fruits through the ancestors was explained by Ugandan priest Father Alfred Onyutha. Representatives of Nigeria, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire and Haiti were among those represented.

“It was transformative to be in the presence of the Holy Spirit in this celebration featuring the colors, sounds, rhythms and the traditions of the African continent. My hope is that this beautiful celebration of the Holy Eucharist can be experienced more widely in our church,” said Corlis L. Sellers, associate director of Lifelong Faith Formation for Black Catholics and Liaison to the Bishop for the Black Catholic Ministry Commission.

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