Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Teresa Martinez - Florida Catholic
Photography: JONATHAN MARTINEZ | FC
MIAMI GARDENS | Tradition, culture and music where plentiful at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Nigerian Apostolate at St. Monica Church June 16.
Over 100 people attended the Mass, which was celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Wenski and concelebrated by the five Nigerian pastors of the Archdiocese of Miami. The Mass was celebrated in both Igbo and English.
“I congratulate you on this 25th anniversary of the Nigerian/African Apostolate here in the Archdiocese of Miami,” said the archbishop during the homily. “The Nigerian community here may be smaller than the community in Houston or Atlanta, but you have made great contributions here to the Church and the larger community.”
He noted that five Nigerian priests serve as pastors in the archdiocese and other Nigerian priests and religious sisters serve in archdiocesan health care facilities. “Each one of you are members of our parishes – and through your Catholic faith, you work to make our communities better places and thus build up the Kingdom of God,” the archbishop said.
The apostolate is located at St. Monica and has an active membership of about 100 people. The group participates in the annual Migration Mass at St. Mary Cathedral and celebrates Mass in Igbo every Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at St. Monica.
“Today is a time of joy and celebration,” said Father Fidelis Nwanko, of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans), who leads the Nigerian Apostolate. “It is a time to reflect back on what the Lord has done in our lives” and “be grateful.”
He added that “the apostolate has been an important part of the archdiocese because we have not only been able to maintain our cultural and religious traditions; we have also been able to share it with the South Florida community.”
The apostolate began to form in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew ravished the Miami area. The Nigerian community rallied to support one another and began celebrating Mass once a month at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Opa-Locka (which merged in 2009 with St. James Parish in North Miami). In 1997, the group was recognized as an official apostolate in the archdiocese. Soon after, they began participating in the annual Mass — celebrated around the feast of the Epiphany — marking National Migration Week in the U.S. Since 2009, the apostolate has called St. Monica Parish home.
“Being a part of this group for the last 30 years, since the beginning, has been a great blessing,” said Christopher Anyagaligbo, historian who put together a book chronicling the history of the apostolate in commemoration of the 25th anniversary. “We’ve been through ups and downs but we are here together in celebration as a community and for our children who are our future. Seeing so many dressed in our cultural attire and hearing our music and language makes you feel like you are home. It is also a blessing to hear the archbishop speak our language – he visited Nigeria decades ago — and take part in today’s festivities.”
Among the active members of the apostolate are the Sisters of Jesus the Saviour, a community founded in Nigeria in 1985.
“It is amazing to see how we have grown over the years,” said Saviourite Sister Ignatia Ezeimo. “The goodness of God is present every week when we get together to sing and praise God in our dialect. It brings so much joy, and the spirit and love of God to our people. God is love. We serve God with our culture, language, and with our lives and in service to one another every day.”
At the end of the Mass, participants gathered for a reception in the parish hall featuring traditional food and music.