African Thanksgiving returns to West Side
Welcome home and welcome back. Holy Cross Parish hosted an African Thanksgiving Mass and bazaar in celebration of the diverse culture of the many nations of Africa and its contributions to the Diocese of Buffalo. A Buffalo tradition, this was the first bazaar held since the Covid-19 outbreak of 2020.
“Welcome home,” said Father Felix Nyambe, OMI, to Bishop Michael W. Fisher when greeting him at the West Side parish on Nov. 5. Father Nyambe, pastor, took to heart a lesson from Pope Francis delivered during the recent World Youth Day events in Lisbon. “There is room for everyone in the Church and the Church is mother to everyone.”
“I can testify here at Holy Cross that we have embraced that call of the pope to say that there is room for everybody in the Church regardless of where we come from,” Father Nyambe said.
The bishop warmly accepted the invitation.
“It’s always good to come home to Holy Cross,” he said. “It’s a great joy to come to celebrate the richness of our Catholic heritage and your African culture – our African culture, that adds so much to our fabric to the mosaic of who we are as Church.”
Founded in 1914, Holy Cross has always been identified as a foundation for everyone to come together for the greater good of the community, serving as an anchor in a neighborhood that is always changing.
During his homily, Bishop Fisher told the true story of a Holocaust survivor who did not recognize his own face after being liberated from a concentration camp where he had been prisoner for years.
“This sad story in some ways is what God, in our Scriptures, is trying to get across to us today. He’s challenging the Pharisees, the leaders, the priests, the scribes. They’re being challenged, in a sense, to look in the mirror and try to see or recognize who they really are,” he said.
In a similar way, the Synod of Synodality, which recently closed, asks the faithful to look in the mirror.
“Who are we as a people of God? Who are we as Catholics, and what do we bring to the table? Are we a people of justice? Are we a people of mercy? Are we a people of hope? Are we a people of joy? Are we a people of love? And how do we reflect that in how we live out our community life as a parish? It’s good for us to look in the mirror. Are we welcoming the stranger? Are we working for peace and justice in our world?” the bishop asked.
Bishop Fisher reflected on what he sees as contributions of the African Church to the United States.
“There’s such a fervor to the faith of our African brothers and sisters. I’ve seen it in my own ministry in Washington,” he said. The bishop served in a parish with mostly Nigerian and Ethiopian parishioners early in his ministry. “There is such a love of the Church, and they bring that fervor, that loyalty, and that faith with them,” Bishop Fisher said.
Sister Roberta Fulton, SSMN, director of the Office of Cultural Diversity, presented Bishop Fisher with a wooden cross, hand-carved by parishioner Tony Misita from the wood of a Holy Cross pew, on behalf of the diocesan African Commission.
Sister Roberta also thanked the choir, which performed in Swahili, Kirundi and French.
“I feel I’ve been to church today, and I celebrated, and I have worshiped God,” she said.
The Mass was followed by an African bazaar with a basket raffle and native foods.
Listen to Michael Mroziak’s audio report.