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‘God’s Love is for Everyone,’ Bishop Says at Mass Celebrating African-American Faith (by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness)

April 30, 2019
Dcn. Crudup

The uplifting sounds of a Gospel choir sprung from St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg Feb. 3 as Catholics gathered for the Diocese’s annual Mass in Celebration of African-American and African Faith and Culture.

The Mass is held annually during Black History Month to celebrate the faith, culture and gifts the African-American community brings to the Church.

“We give thanks to God for the diversity of the Church, and for calling us all together in the one Body of Christ,” Bishop Ronald Gainer said in welcoming the congregation.

He invited members of the African-American and African Catholic community to join the Diocese’s Black Catholic Apostolate. The ministry was established in 1986 to address the economic and spiritual concerns of all persons of African ancestry, and to promote leadership, foster evangelization, and address issues of racial injustice through family and educational programs.

Auxiliary Bishop Roy Campbell of the Archdiocese of Washington served as homilist for the Mass. Reflecting on the Second Reading, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians on the virtues of faith, hope and love – and the attributes of love – the bishop spoke of real-life examples of courageous acts of love people have made for others.

“What extraordinary things, miraculous things, has loved allowed us to do for others? What is this love that gives us hope, that gives us faith? What is this love that allows a man and wife to love each other so much, that they love their children even before they’re born? What is this love that allows us to help our neighbors, even if it means sacrificing ourselves?”

“This love is God,” he said.

“All the things we say about true love, we can say about God. He is patient, he is kind, he never fails. He is not quick tempered, and he certainly does not hold a grudge,” Bishop Campbell remarked. “God calls us, through our baptism, to be like him. This means to love as he loves us. God’s love is for everyone, and he wants us to love as he loves – unconditionally.”
He spoke of the faith and action of a number of African-American heroes, and the example they give of God’s love. Among the models he named were Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman and Nelson Mandela. He also spoke of the lives of Servant of God Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, who founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore for African-American women to enter religious life; Venerable Pierre Toussaint, a slave who became a noted philanthropist to the poor; and Venerable Henriette DeLille, an African-American French Creole woman who founded the Sisters of the Holy Family to provide orphanages and schools in New Orleans.

“To live equally as people is what each of these black heroes hoped and worked for. They trusted God’s love and mercy for them, for their people and for their nation,” Bishop Campbell said. “This is how we should live our everyday lives, trusting in God, abandoning our will and following God’s Commandments. We should not be afraid, because he is always near us.”

“Too often, we underestimate seeing the image of God – the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word. As small as they may be, all have the potential to turn a life around. People come into our life for a reason. Embrace them, and you embrace God,” he said.

At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Gainer blessed an icon of the Blessed Mother which was presented to Gwen Summers, for her decades of service as coordinator of the Black Catholic Apostolate. Angelé Mbassi, a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Mechanicsburg, will succeed Summers on March 1.

Mbassi, a native of Cameroon, said serving the apostolate is “my way of responding to a call.”

“I was born into a Catholic family – the oldest of 11 children – that raised me in the faith. I love to serve the Church,” she said. “I’m very happy to give testimony, and to help lead others to the Lord,” Mbassi said. “I’m looking forward to my work with the apostolate, and using my gifts for Black Catholic ministry in the Diocese.”

(Learn more about the Black Catholic Apostolate at www.hbgdiocese.org/multicultural-ministries/ or by e-mailing Jaclyn Curran, Coordinator of the Diocesan Office of Multicultural Ministries, at jcuran@hbgdiocese.org.)

Angela MBassi

Angela MBassi

Mrs. Crudup and Deacon Miller

Mrs. Crudup and Deacon Miller

St. Joseph- Largo Choir

St. Joseph- Largo Choir