On October 16, 2011, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh, celebrated the annual African Heritage Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Raleigh for approximately 700 faithful. The Mass, now in its third year, was formerly called the African Communities Mass. The name of the event was changed to acknowledge the unity of all Catholics of African descent, including African Americans and Africans from the many African nations represented throughout the Diocese. Concelebrants were Msgr. David D. Brockman, Vicar General; Fr. Marcos Leon, Vicar for African Ancestry Ministry and Evangelization (AAMEN); Fr. Roger Malonda, Parochial Vicar at St. Mary Mother of the Church in Garner and priest to the French speaking community; Fr. Pius Wekesa, Parish Administrator at St. John the Baptist in Roanoke Rapids and priest to the Swahili speaking community; and Fr. Joseph Oji, C.S.S.P., Parochial Vicar at St. Michael the Archangel in Cary and priest to the Igbo speaking community; Fr. Gregory Anatuanya, Sacred Heart, Pinehurst; and Fr. Collins Okafor, a native of Nigeria, now serving in the Archdiocese of Toronto.
The Mass was celebrated in French, Swahili and Igbo. Among those in attendance were Catholic faithful from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Sudan, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Benin and Cote d’Ivoire. The liturgy included hymns in different African languages, accompanied by drums and other musical instruments customary in the celebration of the African Mass. Fruits, such as pineapples and mangos, were offered in the Presentation of the Gifts.
In his homily, Bishop Burbidge reflected on the duty and power of faithful citizens to “always contribute to the good of society while consistently demonstrating that our ultimate loyalty and fidelity are always directed to God.” The Bishop went on to reflect on three questions: “From whom do we get this power? How is it to be exercised? Where do we find the guidance and strength we need?”
“Will it always be easy to be faithful citizens?” the Bishop asked in conclusion. “Of course not. Is there a way to endure in hope? Yes, if we truly believe that in the Lord we live and move and have our being and that He is our God and we are His people.”
At the end of Mass, Fr. Leon expressed his gratitude to Bishop Burbidge for his ongoing encouragement and support of the African communities in the Diocese. Lauren Green, Director of African Ancestry Ministry, said, “It is important for us to come together and celebrate Mass with the African communities as a reminder to ourselves that, as St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:12, ‘As a body is one, though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.’”
The African Communities Mass was followed by a reception at the Fallon Center.
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Above: Bishop Michael F. Burbidge during celebration of annual African Heritage Mass, October 16, at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Raleigh.
Below: Choir, representing people from eight African nations, singing hymns in several African languages.