All Welcome At monthly Mass Celebrated In Igbo language

Men and women from the Igbo Catholic Apostolic gather once a month for Mass, fellowship and Nigerian food and music. Image via the Catholic Star Herald


-- Igbos from the Eastern region of Nigeria, one of the three dominant tribes in the multilingual and multicultural country, gather at noon every third Sunday of the month at Saint Francis de Sales in Barrington to celebrate Mass in the rich Igbo language accompanied by spirit-filled liturgical Igbo songs and music.

The Igbo Catholic Apostolic (ICA), which was inaugurated on Nov. 19, 2017, under its first chaplain, Father Mike Ezeatu, is grateful to its host parish, Saint Rose of Lima in Haddon Heights, and then-pastor Father E. Joseph Byerley for giving the ICA a place to call home for monthly worship. A true expression of the parish mission of St. Rose of Lima, to love God and others.

ICA is proud of its mission to evangelize and foster a faith community that embraces the heart of Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit, to strengthen family units, with a focus on guiding young children and youth to be firmly rooted in the Catholic faith expressed in the Igbo language and culture of their parents and for their liturgical and ritual formation. ICA is guided by the vision to model a vibrant, loving and supportive family faith community that is warm and welcoming to all in the usual Igbo culture.

This sense of community is truly felt in the efforts of the men and women’s group who rally support for members in times of joy or sorrow. The ICA encourages youth to be involved in the liturgy and engaged in giving back to the wider community through service.

The youth are also organized to participate in diocesan and national programs, with some attending the 2019 National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis. The ICA dedicates a special Sunday each year to celebrate the various educational milestones of the youth. This day is filled with joyful youth activities and gift awards.

During the global shutdown, the youth coordinator organized and engaged young people in various faith-focused Zoom events and prayers, ending the year with an online Nativity story and caroling event during the 2021 Advent season, which featured many of the youth as announcers, narrators and singers.

As Igbos, we enjoy coming together and celebrating our rich culture and Mass traditions here, and every opportunity of gathering with family, friends or neighbors is typically a celebration. It is therefore not surprising that a feast with Nigerian delicacies is shared after every Mass. The eating and dancing serves more than nourishing our bodies, it strengthens our brotherhood/sisterhood and builds the bonds of friendship between the old and young alike.

The ICA is very grateful to Father David A. Grover, pastor of Saint Rose of Lima Parish, who in true spirit of encountering Jesus and evangelism, responded to the invitation of Father Francis Oranefo, current ICA chaplain, and makes an effort to join ICA for the monthly Mass and feast. His presence fosters a great spirit of acceptance of the ICA community and a warm and indescribable joy among its members, who feel truly blessed by his spiritual support.

A Sunday evening Adoration organized by Father Oranefo once a month enhances the ICA’s spiritual formation. Members pray the Rosary together as a community, presenting their personal and family petitions, and intercessions, and receiving blessings and benediction.

In the spirit of a true missionary community called to reach out to others with the richness of Christ’s love and fellowship, ICA’s vibrant choir participates in the annual diocesan Black History Month Mass and other invitations to sing in cultural choir events in the Diocese.

The ICA community was glad and blessed by the presence of Father Vincent Guest, coordinator of the diocesan Black Catholic Ministry Commission, who joined the community to celebrate last year’s annual Mass of Family Thanksgiving, which featured a procession of families bearing different kinds of gift offerings to give thanks to God.

The ICA community invites and welcomes all in the Diocese of Camden to join us in worship, to experience the liturgy expressed beautifully in the Igbo language with soulful, spirit-filled songs!

Dr. E. Juliet Njoku, youth coordinator, ICA, Barrington, is a member of the Black Catholic Ministry Commission, Diocese of Camden.