In a homily that focused on the treasure that is each person, Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama spoke Nov. 19 to hundreds who gathered to celebrate the 12th annual African Heritage Mass.
“We look around and think, ‘we are not like the other ones.’ It’s simple, we are not. That is why we are special, because we are not like the other ones,” he said. “Know that we are who we are because of where we are coming from … we have to use our talents.”
Bishop Zarama spoke about how it was a blessing to him to be part of the Mass, which was concelebrated by 14 priests. Ten altar servers participated in the Mass, and the flags of more than 20 countries were included in the procession and recession. The Swahili community provided music for the entrance, while French-African, Igbo and African American communities each offered their unique musical traditions as well.
Bishop Zarama spoke about how congregants showed their joy and individuality through singing and dancing. “When we aren’t afraid to use the talent, that’s when the joy comes in that special moment,” he added. “We cannot bury the treasure. We cannot compare ourselves. The mission is courage. Don’t be afraid.”
He asked those present to share their joy with their beloved ones so that they would feel how important they are.
The African Ancestry Mass began in 2006, where it was held for the first time at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. During its history it was also held at Raleigh’s St. Raphael the Archangel Church and Holy Cross Church in Durham. This year it was celebrated at Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh.
For Ekele Ngwadom, chairman of the Igbo Catholic Community, the move to the new cathedral was welcomed as it accommodated a growing community.
“This is our home. We have more than 1,000 African families in this diocese,” he said. “Christ says people will come from the east, from the west, from the north and from the south. Look, there’s not any better example to give than what you saw today.”