Today’s noon Mass is our celebration of the Annual Black History Month Mass here at St. Matthias. I am very happy to welcome the presider Fr. Alphonsus Kariuki, Pastor at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Dunellen, Concelebrant Fr. Gilles Njobam from Our Lady of Piscataway in Perth Amboy, and Deacon Rick Fortune from the Cathedral of St. Francis. We are also happy to welcome the Cameroonian Catholics who will be the song leaders for this Mass. We know that Black History Month is an annual celebration to honor the contributions and legacy of African Americans across U.S. history and society – from activists, civil rights pioneers, and religious leaders.
The USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) has a Subcommittee for African American Affairs which is the official voice of the African American Catholic community. This Subcommittee assists the U.S. Catholic bishops individually and collectively to attend to the needs and aspirations of African American Catholics regarding issues of pastoral ministry, evangelization, social justice, worship, development of leaders and other areas of concern. Bishop Joseph N. Perry, the Chairman of this Subcommittee, published a Lenten Reflection in which he wrote:
We tread these forty days because we want to love God better, know ourselves better and love our neighbor better. Church is a group experience for Christians. We come together as a group because God created us to live in community and because Jesus modeled community as the way to God with his own twelve apostles and any number of other disciples, men and women, who were connected with his ministry. We know that if we try to journey alone, we will likely get lost.
None of us is perfect. None of us knows the way all of the time. We all fail. We all need help. So, we come to listen to the Word of God and nourish ourselves with his Eucharist and share our strengths and challenges, our joys and sorrows for our own good and the good of all.
During Lent we discover out of the spiritual treasure troves of Church the fonts of God’s mercy and the richness of our fellowship with one another through the rituals of Eucharist, reconciliation, scriptural prophecy and life promised us in His resurrection.
The “spiritual treasure troves” that Bishop Perry mentioned above are what we offer here at St. Matthias. Besides the Holy Mass, we have devotions like the Stations of the Cross, Novenas, Adorations, Rosary, First Friday devotion/Holy Hour, etc. Our Lenten journey has a personal and communal dimension. Personally, we walk this journey by having personal practices, personal devotions and personal resolutions that will help us grow in holiness. But, it takes on an added meaning and benefit when we join the parish community and journey together. I am truly happy that many of our parishioners participate in the various devotions we have and reap rich spiritual benefits. Wouldn’t it be great if many more would do that?
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal