Parishioner recollections from the African National Eucharistic Congress
The Diocese of Fort Worth sent a delegation of 13, including three priests and 10 laypeople, to the African National Eucharistic Congress (ANEC), which was held at the Catholic University of America on July 21-23 to gather together hundreds of Catholics from Africa now living in North America.
Here are firsthand accounts of their experiences at the conference by parishioners from the Diocese of Fort Worth.
Pie Bimenyimana and Emma Upanayana from Our Mother of Mercy Parish in Fort Worth:
Our experience with African National Eucharist Congress (ANEC)
My husband, Pie Bimenyimana and I, Emma Uwaniyigena, both from Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church attended the African National Eucharist Congress (ANEC) from 07/21-23/2023 in Washington DC as a couple representing the Republic of Rwanda.
It was our first time to participate in this conference and it was a blessing for our couple, family, and our community. Our words cannot express our sincere gratitude to the entire team of our Fort Worth Catholic Diocese, and our special thanks go to Ms. Anna, who has worked tirelessly with us through all steps of the process.
Before we were thinking that it would be like a simple retreat. But what we experienced was more than a retreat. Meeting our fellow Africans brothers and sisters with different experiences, different cultural backgrounds, different modes of Adoration, and different ways of celebrating Eucharist was amazing.
Celebrating the Mass with more than one Cardinal, more than one Archbishop, more than 15 Bishops, over a hundred priests from different African countries, deacons, and sisters was a joy for us. Even if we speak different languages, we were understanding each other; we have our way to connect during Mass and Adoration. Seasoning those spiritual special times with our songs and dance was beautiful and lifting each and everyone.
Our experience with ANEC has tremendously increased our courage and determination to be more involved in our community.
When we get in touch with our community members, we will talk about:
- how to increase our active participation in our national groups in the parish life and community
- to approach all our friends in our Rwandan community who have left the Catholic faith.
- to see how we can support each other in our faith journey.
- to inspire our youth and young adults to keep our catholic identity.
Also with our diocese, we would like to discuss the possibility of:
- establishing a channel or an office in charge of African communities in the diocese: this could help to overcome so many challenges and frustrations of many communities and speed up the integration.
- establishing an office of cultural diversity
- celebrating our unity and diversity
From the ANEC, we were happy to hear that we were not the only community which has been facing challenges like language barriers and culture integration issues, but we learned from some others’ experiences that we must have the courage and determination to keep in our mind that the Eucharist brings us together and gives us the courage to face boundaries and extend our hand to help others.
Our mission from the ANEC is to look deep down and think about how we are responding to our calling from our sacrament of baptism. In the baptism, God called us to RISE UP from the darkness. The question is: How are we answering his call?
Courage and determination are our guide. In our ministry, if we knock on the doors of different offices or institutions and get rejected, we do not have to give up because of humiliation, we must accept the humiliation like Jesus would and continue to knock until the doors are open.
Because of our experience, two questions will now be forever in our mind:
- how can your God Father recognize you as his child?
- what if God asks us now, “What did you do for My People?”
Our trip to and from the conference didn’t go without difficulties, but God was always on our side. We had flights delays and cancelations on our way to and from the conference. During the conference, there were some last-minute changes to the agenda. Yet Pie and I had a memorable time in DC: the Eucharist procession to the Shrine church, the tour of National Museum of African American History and Culture, etc. Lastly but not the least, we connected with many good people, whom we can ask information or advice, and made friends.
Again, we take this opportunity to thank the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth for giving us this opportunity.
God bless you all.
Pie Bimenyimana and Emma Uwaniyigena
Our Mother of Mercy Parish
Nanaafiia Adjei from St. Joseph Catholic Parish in Arlington:
The African National Eucharistic Congress occurred at our nation’s capital on July 21st-23rd, 2023 at the Catholic University of America.
During this time, we had praise and worship, daily Mass, and talks with priests and lay people.
The central theme for this Congress was to keep in mind the Lord's prayer for all of us, “That they may all be one,” (John 17:21).
Beholding our Lord in the Eucharist in our nation’s capital was pivotal to aiding in the Lord’s call for unity. This unity was present as hundreds of African Congregations, including brothers and sisters, priests and nuns coming from the United States as well as various African countries, came together to adore our Lord in the Eucharist.
As with the first Pentecost, where all the Apostles and Mary spoke in different tongues but there was still one spirit—the Holy Spirit—so, too, were there songs at the Congress in different African languages, with parts of the Mass being chanted in Latin. Through the Eucharist, we were all of one accord.
At the Congress, we were reminded that although diversity can come with tension and strife, at the end of the day, there is still Unity in Diversity.
During a Q & A session, Archbishop Wilton Cardinal Gregory of the Diocese of Washington, D.C. reminded all those present that the Church is enhanced by our diversity and traditions and that he wants us to hold on to those and pass them on to future generations.
However, for most of us, the United States is not our first home.
This can cause parts of our cultures, especially with children born in the United States, to disappear, due to assimilation into American culture, with some African traditions at Mass are included.
However, having the African National Eucharistic Congress take place in Washington D.C., while being able to use our traditions of charismatic praise, waving our handkerchiefs, and dancing and clapping our hands during songs, showed the acceptance and protection of our dignity as African immigrants, and our culture in the United States, helping to fulfill the Lord’s call to unity everywhere.
May we all call to mind the mission the Lord has sent us on to be as one, in all nations all over the world, with Our Lord in the Eucharist being our guide.