After a difficult year, the Nigerian Catholic Community of the Diocese of Parramatta have returned to Mass with a song in their hearts and a spring in their step.
The community gathered at their ‘home parish’ of Our Lady, Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes, on the First Sunday of Advent, 28 November, to celebrate their annual Thanksgiving Mass.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, was the principal celebrant of the Mass in a first for the Nigerian community, who have been worshipping together in the Diocese of Parramatta for 11 years.
Concelebrating with Bishop Vincent was Fr Chukwunonyerem (Chinonye) Akamadu, the community’s chaplain and Fr Stephen Onyekwere from the Diocese of Wagga Wagga.
The Mass was celebrated in English, while hymns were sung in Igbo, one of the major languages in Nigeria, and other languages.
During his homily, Bishop Vincent spoke about the hope and new beginnings that comes with the season of Advent and that as followers of Christ, we experience darkness, but God is not oblivious to the pain and suffering we experience.
“God is a God who walks with us. His name is Emmanuel – the God who is always with us. He never abandons us.
“As a believer, as a follower of Christ, we firmly believe that God is in charge, directing the course of history and that the final victory of God over wickedness and evil and the forces of darkness in this world is already set in motion.
“The death and resurrection of Jesus became the pledge, the assurance that all will be well. It also means that we must not lose heart. We must not give in to evil in this world, we must stand on the side of light, of good, of love over hatred, over sin, over death.
“Advent is waiting in hope, but it is not a passive waiting, it is a kind of vigilance, awakening, staying the course that Jesus talks about in the Gospel today. Our waiting is patience, in faith, hope and love and perseverance.”
Following Mass, members of the men’s, women’s and youth organisations processed in the church, giving thanks and offerings for the community.
Vin Ogu, Chair of the Community’s Pastoral Council, on behalf of the community, thanked Bishop Vincent for celebrating Mass and thanked all those across the Diocese and beyond who have strengthened their faith community over the years.
“The migration of most of us to Australia has been challenging, rewarding, if not, spectacular,” Vin said in his address.
“When we migrated, we did not leave behind our cherished and valuable culture and Catholic faith.
“Settling in a new country is not easy, at the least, we feel much more at home, though, when we gather as a worshipping faith community and live fully our faith.
“We are fired up by the desire to worship and praise God, proclaim his goodness and greatness in the language we hold dear, amongst people who understand our culture and way of life in this lucky country.
“We sought a home for our community in the modern church in metropolitan Sydney, and the Diocese of Parramatta offered that home, and for this, we are grateful.”
Speaking to Catholic Outlook following the Mass, Fr Chinonye explained that it was an honour to have Bishop Vincent celebrating Mass with the community.
“It brings a deeper sense of communion, celebrating with the chief shepherd of the Diocese of Parramatta.
“It has fostered within the community a greater sense of belonging, aimed at helping us to integrate and participate fully in the liturgical life of the Diocese.”
During lockdown, the community celebrated Mass online weekly, hosted prayer meetings on a Wednesday, and the lay organisations held virtual catch-ups.
With the reopening of churches and the return to public worship, having access to the Sacraments is “most welcome and delightful,” Vin told Catholic Outlook.
“We believe that God kept our people, most of whom work in frontline health, disability and aged care sectors, safe, and by extension, our family who would have become vulnerable to COVID outbreaks.
“We believed that by God’s grace, there is definitely light at the end of the COVID pandemic tunnel.”
The Nigerian Catholic Community celebrate Mass together at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes, on the second and fourth Sundays of the month, and will continue to celebrate Mass in 2022.
For more information, please contact community chaplain Fr Chinonye Akamadu on 0451 174 438 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Stella Nwosu on 0405 478 472.
View images from the Nigerian Catholic Community’s Thanksgiving Mass here or below.