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African ministry gets new home in Chancery

Posted By December 4, 2014 | 5:15 pm | Featured Article #2
Photo by Tanya Connor
Bishop McManus, center left, and Father Eric K. Asante, center right, join representatives of the African communities in applause at the blessing of their new office in the Chancery Tuesday.
Photo by Tanya Connor Bishop McManus, center left, and Father Eric K. Asante, center right, join representatives of the African communities in applause at the blessing of their new office in the Chancery Tuesday.

By Tanya Connor

Africans from various countries and local communities came together under one name to celebrate the blessing of a new space for the Diocesan African Ministry.
The African Ministry was welcomed into the Chancery recently with the blessing of its office there and a reception at which members met diocesan employees.
The establishment of the office shows that the bishop cares for them, increases their potential for unity and provides a place where Africans can comfortably seek help from the Church, which also might draw some back to the Church, those involved said.
Bishop McManus met the representatives of African communities in the Chancery lobby and they went to Room 110 on the first floor behind the bookstore, next to rooms used by the Office of Religious Education. There the bishop blessed the people and office and they sang a song of praise to God.
At the reception in the Chancery library they sang another song, cut a welcome cake and were greeted by people who work in the Chancery or next door at The Catholic Free Press.
Father Eric K. Asante, African Ministry chaplain, introduced Esther Boama-Nyarko, who will coordinate the ministry from that office, starting Tuesday. She later said that, starting in January, she will work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Nicholas Obeng, president of the African community at St. Joan of Arc Parish, offered a “big thank you” to Bishop McManus for including them in the building where he has his own office. He said they will make good use of the space as a place of contact to help people. Everybody was smiling, welcoming them, and made them feel very much at home, he said.
Allan Waigera, chairman of the African community at St. Peter Parish and St. Andrew the Apostle Mission, said that the African ministry has existed for several years but has never had a place where they could address their problems.
“We look forward to working with all of you,” he told diocesan employees. “It is our hope that you give us guidance. Let us celebrate the life of Christ.”
Deacon Anthony J. Xatse, representing the African community at St. Paul Cathedral, where he is stationed, thanked Bishop McManus and all present. He said the cathedral is like the United Nations; it has parishioners from several African countries.
“We have a unique opportunity to do something better,” Father Asante told Bishop McManus and diocesan employees. “Christ is with us … Everything is possible. As Catholics we know we are all one universal Church.”
Speaking to The Catholic Free Press afterwards, some of the Africans talked about the significance of their new office.
Father Asante said when he was appointed chaplain of the African Ministry last July, it had no structure. So he sent a proposal to Bishop McManus and met with him, then took representatives from the St. Joan of Arc and St. Peter’s-St. Andrew’s communities to meet with the bishop. (Other active African communities in the Diocese are at the cathedral and at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Fitchburg, those present said.)
Father Asante said they were looking for a place from which to work, and Bishop McManus proposed an office in the Chancery. Everyone liked that idea and started working together to implement it, he said.
Mr. Obeng said the establishment of the office shows Bishop McManus has an interest in this and cares for the Africans.
“The response was so quick,” he said. That means “we are welcome. We feel like we are part of the family here in the Diocese of Worcester.”
“In itself, it tells of a big story, especially for us,” said Mr. Waigera, likening it to children who always played in the back yard being brought to the front yard to play.
The office will enable Africans to seek help from fellow Africans who understand their customs and traditions, he said. For example, he said, it takes time for Africans to go to a food pantry, even if they are hungry, because “they don’t want to present themselves as such.” But if they are told there is another African they can go to for help, they will feel comfortable.
Robert Moore, president of the cathedral’s African community, said he thinks having the office in the Chancery will encourage some fallen-away Catholics to return to the Church.
When Africans arrive here they do not know where to go, Mr. Obeng said. If Protestants help them, they are likely to go to those churches.
“That’s why we are working so hard to get this office,” he said. He and Father Asante spoke of publicizing it on the Diocesan website, in The Catholic Free Press and other places.
Deacon Xatse said people in Africa and all over the world know that they can get help from the Catholic Church, and this office will help them do so here.
Anthony Adade, a member of the cathedral community who is an administrator at Worcester State University, said Catholic Charities helped him get his green card in the mid-1980s and now the African Ministry office can offer such services.
“I’ve grown up in the African Ministry,” said Miss Boama-Nyarko. “Now I feel like it’s going to bring about a more established unity, individually in parishes as well as collectively in the African Ministry in the Diocese. We will all now know about the happenings in each group.”