By Paul Awortwi-Mensah
Special to The CFP
WORCESTER – African Catholics were encouraged to continue evangelizing during Bishop McManus’ visit with them Sunday at St. Peter’s Church.
The Mass brought together hundreds of immigrants from different African countries who worship in various parishes in the diocese. They prayed, sang, clapped their hands and danced to the glory of God, many wearing traditional dress.
Father Anthony Mpagi, chaplain of the diocesan African ministry, said that for many African Catholics, from quite a young age, a bishop’s visit is still a very special event to a parish, deanery or community. He recounted how in Africa, when a bishop is coming for a pastoral visit, people sweep the streets, clean the church and cook, children are in their Sunday best, and choirs prepare.
“All these are done back home because of what the bishop represents for us, our grandfather in faith,” Father Mpagi told Bishop McManus. “We listen to his words of wisdom and they strengthen our faith. May our celebration and gathering with you, our bishop, strengthen our faith to go and proclaim the Gospel with our lives.”
In his homily, Bishop McManus, advised the congregation to follow the good works of Jesus, to live in faith and put their faith into action through love.
“We have been given the faith in baptism and this faith has grown in us with the help of our priests, our catechists, our parents and godparents,” he said.
Bishop McManus told about the love Mother Teresa shared and urged all Christians to extend that love to one another to make the world a better place. He urged the congregation to put their faith into practice by sharing it with those who do not have it, inviting people to come home and worship with them.
The bishop told the immigrants they can look back to where they came from with pleasant memories and remember who they are now, and that it is by God’s grace that they are who they are today.
He urged them to develop a “soft heart” as that would enable them to contribute to the development of their families, the church and their communities.
Msgr. Francis J. Scollen, pastor of St. Peter Parish and St. Andrew the Apostle Mission, said in 1989 when Father Quentin Arthur from Ghana was assigned to St. Peter’s, there were only two African families in the parish. Now, he said, “we can count hundreds of families who are members of the African Catholic Community.” He said the community has come a long way and urged members to continue the evangelization they have already started.
Nicholas Obeng, president of the Ghanaian Catholic Community at St. Joan of Arc Parish, said afterwards that the Mass is a sign of unity among all the African Catholics in the diocese. He called for strict adherence to spiritual life, explaining that it can impact the social, spiritual and cultural development of any society. He urged Christians to live in peace with each other so that they will enjoy the love of God.
– Paul Awortwi-Mensah is secretary of the Ghanaian community at St. Joan of Arc Parish.