January 8, 2016

Mass highlights joyful expression of faith and farewell to a friend

Wearing an African shirt that was a gift from the members of the archdiocesan African Catholic Ministry, Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez is blessed by Father Kenneth Taylor, pastor of St. Rita and Holy Angels parishes, at St. Rita Church in Indianapolis on Dec. 6. Also participating in the blessing are Fathers John Kamwendo, associate pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, left, and Immanuel Nyong, a chaplain at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. (Photo by Victoria Arthur)

Wearing an African shirt that was a gift from the members of the archdiocesan African Catholic Ministry, Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez is blessed by Father Kenneth Taylor, pastor of St. Rita and Holy Angels parishes, at St. Rita Church in Indianapolis on Dec. 6. Also participating in the blessing are Fathers John Kamwendo, associate pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, left, and Immanuel Nyong, a chaplain at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. (Photo by Victoria Arthur)

By Victoria Arthur (Special to The Criterion)

Giving thanks to God in all situations is part of the tapestry of African culture.

That tradition was on full display on Dec. 6 at St. Rita Church in Indianapolis when members of the African Catholic Ministry celebrated their 12th anniversary with a vibrant Mass, while bidding farewell to a treasured friend.

Led by the Global Children African Dancers, members of the congregation danced, sang and clapped in a procession to the altar that culminated in a rousing sendoff for Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez. Brother Moises, who until Nov. 30 was director of the archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry, is now pursuing doctoral studies at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.

When he left Indianapolis, he took a special gift with him, one bestowed with gratitude at the conclusion of the African Mass. Sally Stovall, a member of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis and the president of the African Catholic Ministry, presented Brother Moises with a Dashiki shirt, a colorful garment worn in many West African countries.

“The garment symbolizes the beauty of Africa and delivers unspoken pride,” said Stovall, a native of Nigeria. “We gave it to Brother Moises for his love for the African community. We want him to remember the beauty of Africa every time he looks at it.”

The splendor of that diverse continent was represented in countless ways during the Mass, from the native music to the readings delivered in various African languages. As Brother Moises donned the garment and gazed out onto those gathered in the church, he delivered his own message of appreciation.

“The beauty of intercultural ministry is transforming each other, and I have been transformed by the African community,” Brother Moises said. “We become better people when we relate to people of other cultures.

“You have made me a better person.”

That theme was interwoven throughout the Mass, which was held on the second Sunday of Advent and just two days before Pope Francis inaugurated the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. Following the Gospel reading from Luke, which focused on John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus, principal celebrant Father Emmanuel Nyong, a chaplain at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, reflected on the unique opportunity that Catholics have before them.

At a time when Christmas is too often overshadowed by commercialism and in the midst of a culture that is increasingly secular, Father Nyong said that Catholics can be a light in the darkness—especially during this Holy Year of Mercy. The Savior who “changed the course of history” can transform all of us, he said.

“John the Baptist is giving us something to do today,” said Father Nyong. “We have to prepare spiritually” for the coming of Christ, he said.

One place to start, he emphasized, is rediscovering the sacrament of reconciliation. A focus on the sacrament is one of the primary themes of the jubilee.

“Ask yourself these questions,” Father Nyong began. “How is my prayer life? Do I have time for God? What is my relationship with my family? How am I treating the people around me?

“Brothers and sisters, we are beginning a year of mercy,” he said. “Let us show mercy to others. The greatest poverty in the world is a [lack of] mercy.”

One way to show mercy is to see the face of Christ in others, a concept that is at the heart of the mission statement of the African Catholic Ministry. That ministry was started a dozen years ago by Father Kenneth Taylor, now pastor of St. Rita and Holy Angels parishes, both in Indianapolis. Father Taylor, one of the concelebrants of the Mass, offered a blessing over Brother Moises after thanking him for his many contributions.

The African Catholic Ministry has operated under the archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry. With the departure of Brother Moises at the helm of that office, Stovall says that she and others will miss his sense of humor, his infectious laugh, but above all, his leadership.

“Brother Moises had the ability to bring all the different cultures within the archdiocese together to share their different gifts,” Stovall said. “He has done so much for the African Catholic community that I can’t even begin to name them. However, we still have so much to accomplish.

“I don’t know where our community will go from here, but I will leave everything to God to show us the way.”
 

(Victoria Arthur is a freelance writer and a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg.)

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