Lucy Konadu, a parishioner of St. Luke’s in the Bronx, said the annual Black History Month Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral is “special for all black people, no matter what culture, all over the world. It is a blessing for me to be here for this Mass and be part of the special day.”
“I’m from Ghana,” Mrs. Konadu, 50, a married mother of two, told CNY. “I’ve been here in America for 24 years; my children were born and raised here…And I love being a Catholic. It is an essential part of daily life for my family.”
Mrs. Konadu was a member of the congregation of 1,700 attending the Feb. 3 Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq of Brooklyn. More than 25 concelebrants included Msgr. Robert Ritchie, rector of the cathedral; Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities; Father Brian McWeeney, director of ecumenical and interreligious affairs for the archdiocese; and Father Gregory Chisholm, S.J., dean of Central Harlem and pastor of St. Charles Borromeo parish. The annual archdiocesan Mass dates back to the late 1970s.
“We are here to celebrate diversity. We want you to complete one another,” said Bishop Sansaricq during his welcoming remarks. The annual Mass also celebrated the National Day of Prayer for the African American and African Family.
The guest homilist was Father Andrew C. Smith Jr., pastor of Holy Angels parish in Chicago and a member of Omega Psi Phi, a predominantly African-American fraternity. The gathering was sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Black Ministry.
The Mass program noted the liturgy was an opportunity to recognize the “great legacy of service, faithfulness, brotherhood and sisterhood provided to us by our historically black Greek letter organizations (black fraternities and sororities), collectively known as The Divine Nine,” especially their leaders and “some of their members who are among our guest clergy at today’s liturgy.”
Father Smith, in the homily, said, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad…We thank God for our blessings, and we pray for all those who are struggling.” The pastor, speaking of service and obligation, noted, “God is not going to ask you, how many friends did you have. God is going to ask you, ‘Were you a friend to someone else?’”
Father Smith spoke about the sorrow caused by divisions in government, society and the Church, but he proclaimed the power of faith.
“Like many of us, Jeremiah was unsure of his abilities and gifts that God gave him…God certainly challenges us a great deal to become what He calls us to be. When it seems that you can’t make it through, put your faith in Jesus.” The pastor spoke of how important it is “to lift up a voice in the face of oppression and suffering. We are called to be the people of God. Like Jeremiah, God is calling us.
“The only power that is proven to be perfect is the power of love.”
Kwame Ampofo, 51, also a Ghana-born parishioner of St. Luke’s, was attending the Mass for the 10th time. “This is Black History Month; we have to be together—this is good for communication among Christian brothers and sisters; it is good for unity.”
Brother Tyrone A. Davis, C.F.C., executive director of the Office of Black Ministry, in closing remarks, thanked Bishop Sansaricq, Father Smith and the concelebrants, Divine Nine members, and others who helped with the gathering. He noted the presence of clergy from other Christian denominations.
He read a letter from Cardinal Dolan denouncing the recently passed New York state’s Reproductive Health Act, which counters the Church’s opposition to abortion.
In a post-Mass interview, Brother Tyrone said, “For this Mass, when we say all are welcome, we don’t just mean all black people are welcome, we’re saying all are welcome. We spent a fantastic day of service yesterday (for the homeless and homebound), and a fantastic Friday evening reflecting and talking with each other at the Sheen Center. It was an unbelievable weekend of celebration.”
The weekend included a Feb. 1 evening gathering at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture in lower Manhattan for a private screening of “Emanuel,” a documentary about the 2015 mass shooting in which nine people were murdered at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C.
On Feb. 2, the Black Ministry office and various organizations worked together to assist the less fortunate at a day of service. Donated coats, hats and gloves were distributed to the homeless at a Midnight Run. Volunteers also brought food to the homebound through Meals on Wheels.