Catholic Free Press

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  • Aug
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National gathering of Kenyans in Worcester

Posted By August 18, 2017 | 4:53 pm | Lead Story #3
Women from St. Andrew the Apostle Mission in Worcester process with friends to St. Peter Church for the Sixth Annual Swahili Mass of the Kenyan Catholic Community in America.

Tanya Connor | CFP
Women from St. Andrew the Apostle Mission in Worcester process with friends to St. Peter Church for the Sixth Annual Swahili Mass of the Kenyan Catholic Community in America. Tanya Connor | CFP

By Tanya Connor
The Catholic Free Press

WORCESTER – Local Kenyans hosted a national gathering of their countrymen with two bishops Saturday, in what organizers described as part of evangelization.
Hundreds of people, mostly Kenyans, participated in The Sixth Annual Swahili Mass organized by the Kenyan Catholic Community in America. Archbishop Peter J. Kairo, archbishop emeritus of Nyeri, Kenya, celebrated it at St. Peter Church, with Bishop McManus in attendance. Several priests concelebrated.
After Mass worshippers processed down Main Street, with banners and a statue of Mary.
They congregated at St. Peter Central Catholic Elementary School, where they had lunch with the bishops and performed dances. A dance for youth was held that evening.
At lunch Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty gave Archbishop Kairo a key to the city.
“My aunt used to be a missionary in Kenya in the 1960s,” he said. She was Sister Theresa Ryan, of the Medical Missionaries of Mary.8-18 kenyan _2098Bishops
Saturday was the first time this annual celebration was held in the Worcester Diocese, according to George Marucha, chairman of the Kenyan Catholic Community in America, who is from New Jersey.
The KCCA’s first national gathering, held in New Jersey six years ago after the KCCA was formed, drew about 300 people. He said 1,000-1,200 people came this year.
Raphael Bibiu, chairman of the Kenyan Catholic Community at St. Andrew the Apostle, a mission of St. Peter’s, said this was the largest KCCA gathering ever.
Next year they plan to expand this one-day event to three days, Mr. Marucha said. If that goes well, in about three years they might expand it to a week.
Functions like this can bring back Kenyans who have left the Church, by giving them a sense of belonging, Mr. Marucha said. He said the KCCA tries to strengthen the faith of those attending church and prepare them to “evangelize and re-evangelize” those who are not attending.
“It gives us our identity,” said Father Gabriel Muteru, KCCA chaplain. A priest of the Archdiocese of Nyeri, he serves in New York and New Jersey.
“We were able to reunite, a reunion of a kind,” Mr. Bibiu said. “People were able to rediscover themselves as a community.”
8-18 kenyan 2105StatueFlagsMost Kenyans feel like there’s no community of their countrymen when they come to the United States from Africa, and many “get pulled to other churches,” he said.
Saturday’s gathering helped “energize evangelization,” he said. In part, it was to show Catholics how to come back to the Catholic Church, to show “we do exist as a Catholic Church … with Kenyan roots.”
“We even had people from other denominations” Saturday and for other events with the archbishop, Mr. Bibiu said.
In addition to his roles in Saturday’s national gathering, Archbishop Kairo joined local Africans for their Thursday prayers in a home and a seminar for youth age 10 and up on Friday, Mr. Bibiu said. Sunday the archbishop celebrated the African Mass at St. Andrew’s, where their community usually worships.
In his homily Saturday Archbishop Kairo talked about Africans, once recipients of missionary efforts, being urged to be missionaries themselves. He said he believed it was because of that missionary spirit that they were there at the Mass.
The day’s theme was, “How can we nourish our faith through Mary?” he said, adding that the Blessed Mother was a woman of faith, love, compassion and prayer.
He talked about how he baptized five children at St. Peter’s before Mass and asked their parents if they are ready to bring them up to love God and neighbor. He said it is important for children to see parents praying, loving one another, reading Scripture, going to church and receiving sacraments.8-18 kenya_1985SingingStars
After preaching, he led couples in renewing their wedding vows.
After Communion, Bishop McManus spoke briefly about Catholics sharing one Lord, one faith and one baptism, no matter what color their skin is or what country they come from.
He said at the synods on the family in Rome, African bishops defended the Church’s teaching about the sacredness of marriage and family.
Before the procession to the school, Religious sisters did a dance, choirs sang special songs and Mr. Marucha led the congregation in clapping seven times to remind them of the seven sacraments. The archbishop blessed KCCA officials. Bishop McManus was thanked for giving Kenyans a home in the diocese, and several other people were thanked for their services.
Archbishop Kairo told The Catholic Free Press he arrived in the United States for this trip July 27. He went to Seattle, St. Paul/Minneapolis and Boston before coming to Worcester, and was going to New Jersey before returning home to Kenya.
“It is very good,” he said of the Kenyan community here. “The Church is alive; they’re concerned about their faith.”