Faithful gather for African heritage celebration

RALEIGH – The diocese held its annual celebration of African heritage Sunday, Aug. 20 at Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral. The event, which began with Mass at 3:30 p.m. and concluded outside under a large tent for fellowship, was marked by faith, music, dancing and food.

Young people processed into the cathedral carrying flags representing many countries and the state of North Carolina while an Igbo hymn, Bianu Bianu Umu Chineke, was sung. Readings were shared in English, French, Swahili and Igbo.

Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama presided at the Mass; Father Roger Malonda Nyimi, administrator of St. Stanislaus in Castle Hayne and chaplain for the Francophone community, shared the homily. Father Roger reminded those gathered that people need God’s mercy and that faith leads to hope. Referencing the readings, he spoke about people who experienced rejection.

“No matter who we are and where we are from, we are called to salvation,” he said. “Christians are told that salvation is given in the name of the Lord, in the name of Jesus. What we need is faith, which means a total trust and confidence in Jesus.”

He told the congregation to not push people away because of differences. Father Roger said hardships, rejection and tests of faith are present in life. To help meet such challenges, he said, it’s important for people to pray for others just as they pray for themselves.

The celebration was organized by the African Ancestry Ministry and Evangelization Network of the Diocese of Raleigh. Its administrator, Jennifer Jones, spoke after Mass and thanked all those gathered and the bishop on behalf of herself and Monsignor Joseph Ntuwa, episcopal delegate to AAMEN.

She also thanked Father Marcos León-Angulo, chaplain for the African American community, Father Pius Wekesa, chaplain for the Swahili community, and Father Roger.

“God is good,” she said. “It has been a pleasure to collaborate.”

In his remarks, the bishop thanked Jones for her work. He also spoke about a commonality among many of those gathered. Each person, he said, speaks English with a unique accent. His comments drew smiles and laughter, and he went on to discuss another language.  

“In this country where God brings us together … it is our journey to learn another language -- love,” he said. “We speak English with accents, we live life with limitations … we need to have each other.”

Watch the Mass