African Community: Festivities and Church Dignitaries
October is the month when we honour Mary, Mother of Jesus, by praying the rosary together especially in families. The last Sunday in the month of October was a very special day as two significant events took place in our Diocese. The relics of Louis and Zelie Martin, the canonised parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church, passed through Helsinki in their tour through the Nordic countries. This pilgrimage of the relics is a great event, as the Bishop of Copenhagen Czeslaw Kozon notes in his writing on ”spiritual mobility” i.e. pilgrimage.
On this very blessed Sunday our bishop Teemu held a Pontifical Mass in our Cathedral in the honour of the relics of the canonised Martin parents. Everybody should take note as it was an opportunity to grow in faith, hope and charity. St. Therese notes ”My mission – to make God loved – will begin after my death. I will spend my time in heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.”
The second significant event that took place on this Sunday of festivities was the visit of the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland and Titular Archbishop of Novica, Most Reverend Jude Thaddeus Okolo, and the Pontifical Mass he held in St. Mary’s church in Meilahti. Archbishop Okolo, originally from Nigeria, was invited by the African Catholic Chaplaincy in Finland headed by Father Leonard Wobilla Shwei. The church was packed with Catholics originally from several African and European countries. Our Bishop Teemu Sippo honoured the Mass with his presence.
The atmosphere was fantastic, dominated by the excellent choir singing the African songs and psalms to drums and other instruments. They should really make a CD of their music. A feature that was new for many of us was the presentation of the New Testament in the form of a procession protected by armed men with pangas. The Holy Book was hidden and was brought to the altar with song and dance. The Archbishop and Father Leonard received the Holy Book from the festive delegation.
Prayers were said in several African and other languages, Finnish included. We missed prayers in Swedish, the second official language of Finland, and French, which is spoken throughout West Africa. The way collection is carried out is different from what is customary in our Diocese. In the African tradition gifts are offered to God and not collected or ”begged” for him. This was done by different African nations coming up as dancing and singing ethnic groups. One could identify clothes, dresses and other decorations representing different countries and regions. Prayers and songs were in many languages. The prayer Our Father was said as follows
Nna anye noye n’eluigwe, ototo diiri ahagii
K’ochichi gi bia, k’eme uchegi n’uwa
Dika esi emeya na eluigwe, nye anyi tataa, nri nk’ubosi anyi
Gbaghara anyi mmehe anyi, dika anyi si gbaghara
Ndi mehiere anyi, ekwelaa k’anyi kwenye na nranye
Ma zoputa anyi na ajo ihe, amen.
This is an excercise in translation – good luck.
The sermon by the Archbishop was stimulating. Several in the church had tears in their eyes. There was a charismatic dynamic atmosphere of divinity and love. He started out by giving a short presentation of his journey towards priesthood. He had insisted on priesthood since early childhood. His name is Jude which stands for the prayers of his father that were answered. The second child, the future Archbishop, in the family was a boy. His life has been guided by love for Christ and the Catholic church. He was greatly surprised and honoured when the Pope personally appointed him to the diplomatic corps of the Holy See. He has served in several countries, now in Ireland.
In an inteview, as well as in his sermon, he noted that nobody comes to Finland by chance. Finland is so far away from everything. It is hardly known in many countries around the world, especially in Africa. There is a purpose to everything. It is a justified purpose which is true, noted the Archbishop.
Finnish people are always cordial, which impressed him. He is very happy with his visit and hopes to come to Finland again. He expressed secial thanks to Bishop Teemu for opening his residence to him.
At the end of the Mass our Bishop Teemu joined him at the altar where they exchanged a brotherly embrace. They jointly blessed all present. After the rather lenghty Mass there was time for photographs and individual blessings. The African community had prepared a feast at the English School. The generosity of the community was evident in the very rich meals and other offerings. Sister Mary Venard, former teacher at the English School, joined the Archbishop and our Bishop for the dinner together with the Vicar General Raimo Goyarrola, a Franciscan brother and Ms. Bernadette Jokinen, who had on the previous day showed Helsinki to the Archbishop.
The afternoon continued until late with songs, dancing and a very good atmosphere. We want to thank Archishop Okolo for coming to Finland and for the Pontifical Mass he held for the African community. We also want to thank our Bishop Teemu for making everything possible and especially Father Leonard who organised together with the African community a fantastic Sunday. Thank you!