St. Josephine Bakhita celebrates its first anniversary

St. Josephine Bakhita celebrates its first anniversary

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On Sunday, Oct. 2, St. Josephine Bakhita Parish capped its weekend of 1st anniversary celebrations, with a Mass at St. Joan of Arc Church. Left photo, Amelia Nesto holds her daughter, Desiree, during the Mass. Other photos: A member of St. Josephine Bakhita’s Praise Dancers walks in the entrance procession and young Katia Garza stands in prayer.

St. Josephine Bakhita Parish in Camden celebrated its first anniversary with a guest speaker at its two churches, and an anniversary fiesta.

On Sept. 22, 2010, the Camden parishes of St. Bartholomew and St. Joan of Arc merged to form St. Josephine Bakhita Parish.

The theme of the weekend was “Building Cross-Cultural Bridges to the Glory of God,” and on Friday night, Sept. 30, Dominican Brother Herman Johnson, professor of Spanish language at Xavier University of Louisiana, gave a presentation in English on “Building Cross-Cultural Bridges to the Glory of God” at St. Bartholomew Church. The next night, Oct. 1, he gave another presentation in Spanish to the predominantly Hispanic parishioners at St. Joan of Arc Church. Events on Saturday, Oct. 1 also included an anniversary picnic on the grounds of St. Joan of Arc, and a 4 p.m. bilingual Mass on the parish lawn.

The celebration concluded the next day, Oct. 2, with a bilingual Mass at St. Joan of Arc for almost 300 worshippers, concelebrated by Father Gerard Marable, pastor, and Father Rico Duclé, parochial vicar, with Brother Herman Johnson giving the homily.

Before the Mass, liturgical dancers performed, with each one of them dressed in clothing native to their cultural background and representing the cultural diversity of the parish, with its mix of African, Hispanic and Caucasian Catholics.

Calling the event “hopeful, encouraging and inspiring,” Father Marable added that the weekend was “a dream come true” with worshippers from both churches, and from different backgrounds, coming together to “gather around the table of the Lord.”

St. Josephine Bakhita was a 19th-century Sudanese slave canonized by Pope John Paul II.

After being flogged, sold and resold, she came to discover Christ. Three years after joining the church she entered the Canossian Daughters’ novitiate and spent the rest of her life as a nun. She served her order as a cook, seamstress and doorkeeper.

She died on Feb. 8, 1947 — the year St. Bartholomew was established as a parish — at the age of 78. Her canonization in October 2000 made her the first Sudanese saint.

With her conversion, St. Bakhita found the “great hope” that liberated and redeemed her, Pope Benedict XVI said in his 2007 encyclical, “Spe Salvi” (on Christian hope).

The pope emphasized that this was different from political liberation as a slave. Christianity “did not bring a message of social revolution,” he said, but something totally different: an encounter with “a hope stronger than the sufferings of slavery, a hope which therefore transformed life and the world from within.”

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