African Catholics converge for regional conference in Newark

By Juliet Njoku 

African Catholics from the Diocese of Camden and the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Newark converged at the Blessed Sacrament Saint Charles Borromeo Parish, Newark, on Oct. 11-12, 2019. It was the first regional conference of the National Association of African Catholics in the United States (NAACUS) hosted by NAACUS Region 3, comprised of dioceses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The theme of the conference was “Speak Lord Your Servant is Listening,” connecting African Catholic communities in worship and service. It was planned, organized and executed by the regional coordinators team. I represented the Diocese of Camden. Others involved were Father Emeka Okwuosa, coordinator of the African American, African and Caribbean Apostolate in the Archdiocese of Newark, Al Gbi Toe of Newark, the Ibo Catholic Community of the Blessed Sacrament Saint Charles Borromeo Parish, as well as pastors and chaplains of parishes with large populations of African Catholics in the region.

The conference drew close to 400 African Catholics across NAACUS Region 3, The participants represented  diverse African countries including Nigeria, Liberia, Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Togo, Burkina Faso and the Francophone communities. NAACUS executives who attended included Sally Stoval, president, Sister Joanna Okereke, HHCJ, the National Director of the Apostleship of the Sea, and the assistant director of the Cultural Diversity in the Church at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. There also were members of various religious congregations of African Sisters.

The main celebrant for the concluding Mass was Auxiliary Bishop Manuel A. Cruz of Newark. Auxiliary Bishop Neil Tiedemann, C.P. of Brooklyn concelebrated along with Msgr. Anselm Nwaorgu and many African priests. 

The conference also featured presentations, workshops and an African-style reception. The keynote delivered by Msgr. Anselm Nwaorgu on the topic “Becoming Influencers for Christ” urged all present to “Demonstrate your Motherhood, that is to say, use your motherhood to become influencers for Christ to the world.” He urged further that “as Africans, there is so much that we have in our culture, in our traditions, and in our spirituality, that we can demonstrate and influence the American Church with.”

A youth choir group from the Iwene Tansi Ibo Catholic community in Philadelphia sang a beautiful rendition of the responsorial psalm and all gathered at the concluding Mass shared in the joy-filled celebration and the bond of the African spirit of worship made alive by various African community choirs.

Juliet Njoku is Region 3 Coordinator of the National Association of African Catholics in the United States

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