Nigerian Mass begins in St. Paul

| September 1, 2017 | 0 Comments

Sacred chrism on newly-ordained Father Bruno Nwachukwu’s hands had barely dried when local Nigerian Catholics asked him about celebrating Mass in their native tongue.

Father Nwachukwu, a Nigeria native ordained in 2015 for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, told the eager Nigerian Catholics that the process of starting a Nigerian Mass would be a slow one.

“I told them no [at first],” said Father Nwachukwu, associate pastor of St. Hubert in Chanhassen. “It would be too much on me to begin something like that as a newly ordained priest.”

Two years later, he’s ready to take on the task.

On Aug. 27, Father Nwachukwu concelebrated with Archbishop Bernard Hebda the first of what will be a monthly Nigerian Mass in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. At standing-room only crowd attended the Mass at St. Peter Claver in St. Paul.

“He was very happy that this kind of apostolate was going to begin,” Father Nwachukwu said of the archbishop.

A standing-room only crowd came for the first Nigerian Mass at St. Peter Claver Aug. 27. Archbishop Bernard Hebda presided for the first monthly Nigerian Mass, organized by Father Bruno Nwachukwu and a committee of local Nigerian Catholics. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

In recent years, a committee of Nigerian Catholics in the archdiocese has been working to offer Mass for the Nigerian community. Father Nwachukwu began working with them earlier this year. They chose St. Peter Claver, a historically African-American parish, as the site for the monthly Mass. The 1:30 p.m. liturgy will be held the fourth Sunday of each month.

Although English is Nigeria’s official language, the parts of the local Mass will be celebrated in a Nigerian tribal language, with hymns and sometimes dance, particularly at the offertory.

“We come up, everyone, right in front of the altar [to bring our gifts],” Father Nwachukwu said.

Offering a regular Nigerian Mass will serve the Nigerian Catholic population around the archdiocese and neighboring dioceses in several ways, he said. It helps Nigerian immigrants who struggle with English and gives their U.S.-born children a connection to their culture and what Mass is like in Nigeria.

Father Nwachukwu hopes it also might inspire Nigerian American men to consider the priesthood.

“Part of starting this Mass is a way to promote vocations among the Africans,” he said.

The Mass also serves as a way to draw Nigerian Catholics who have left the Church back to practicing the faith. Father Nwachukwu said some leave for Pentecostal churches because they didn’t feel welcome in Catholic parishes. He said he hopes the Nigerian Mass could “encourage them to begin to rethink coming back to the Catholic faith.”

 

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