WASHINGTON (August 29, 2006)—The first African National Eucharistic Congress will be held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and at the Catholic University of America, September 2-3.
The event has been planned by African pastoral leaders in collaboration with the Office for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, Migration and Refugee Services, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). It is open not only to Africans but to members of all ethnic groups.
Objectives of the African National Eucharistic Congress include providing an opportunity for African Catholics in the U.S. to reflect on the significance of the Eucharist in their faith life, to deepen their faith through celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
A related objective is to gather African Catholic newcomers to experience mutual support and renewal of their life and their African values and cultures, which they can then bring back to their dioceses and share in their various homes and ministries.
According to Nigerian-born Sister Joanna Okereke, Coordinator of Ethnic Ministries at the USCCB office, more than 500 persons from throughout the United States are registered to participate. Sister Okereke also noted that African priests and religious now constitute a substantial portion of the U.S. Church's ministry force. She said that over 1,000 African nuns and 900 African priests are now ministering in this country.
"This is a momentous occasion in the life of the Church in the United States — to bring Africans from all over the country to pray and break bread together towards solidifying spiritual unity firmly grounded in the love for our Lord who is constantly whispering to us to gather around the table and 'eat as one family," the event program says. "Come and be part of history."
Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry of Chicago, Episcopal Liaison for African and Caribbean Communities, will give the keynote address, entitled "Eucharist: Source of Unity, Solidarity and Reconciliation," at 9:45 am, Saturday, September 2.
Most Reverend Augustine Shao, CSSP, Bishop of Zanzibar, Tanzania, will be presider and homilist at a Eucharistic celebration beginning at 3 PM on Saturday. This will be followed by a procession of nations, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and a cultural celebration featuring a banquet with an assortment of African foods. In keeping with the African custom of putting on their best attire for the occasion, participants have been invited to wear the native dress of their African homelands.
Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington will be the presider and homilist at a Eucharistic celebration in the Crypt Church of the Basilica at 9:30 am, Sunday, September 3.
Concurrent workshops will be given throughout the two-day celebration on such topics as Mary, "Woman of the Eucharist"; Eucharist and African Culture; Youth and the Eucharist; and Enculturation of the Eucharist.
Special activities will be provided for children ages 5 to 12 on both days.
Preceding the Eucharistic Congress will be the 7th National Convention of the African Conference of Catholic Clergy and Religious in the United States (ACCCRUS). With the theme "Breaking Bread Together: The African Experience," the convention will be held August 31-September 1 at the Best Western College Park Inn in College Park, Maryland. At the conclusion of the convention, participants will proceed to the African National Eucharistic Congress at the Basilica.