On Saturday, September 26, St. Anthony’s Parish in Jaffa celebrated the African community’s 25th anniversary. In a warm, welcoming atmosphere of brightly colored garments and traditional musical instruments and choirs … the assembly’s joy was contagious.
The community brings together people from all over Africa, mainly from Ghana and Nigeria, but Eritrea as well. Francophones celebrate their masses at St. Peter’s church in Jaffa, whereas English celebrations take place at St. Anthony’s. Rose-Angeline, who came from Cameroon in 1998, said: “Since I speak both languages, I attend both two churches! It is very important for me to be part of the community. We share the same customs and when we gather, we talk and we sing in our own language. We visit each other on Saturdays and Sundays and on our days off.”
The Franciscan parish of Jaffa hosts several migrant communities, who gather for the English mass. Rose Angeline explained: “I also have Filipino friends because they are a lot of them in the parish: in the Sunday choir that I am a part of, there are only two Africans. We get along very well. And regardless of the language in which we pray, we are praying to the same God!” Several Filipinos proudly donned the African garments chosen for the occasion.
Br. Zaher Abboud, the parish priest explained: “We wanted to celebrate this jubilee year together in order to give thanks for this community and to strengthen it. It contributes a lot to the parish. The first members of the community came 25 years ago, and some are still here!” Since the parish is Franciscan, people are attached to the Custody. Angeline-Rose even became a Franciscan tertiary a few years ago. The Custos, who was invited to the celebration but who unfortunately was absent, was represented by Br. Athanasius Macora, who presided over the mass.
In his short homily, he recalled that the community was primarily built on Christ. Its purpose is to demonstrate His love and to spread the Gospel. Past, present or future persecutions that affect the Church are often accompanied by a temptation to close in on oneself. But we must work hard to overcome this instinct in order to continue being open to others. A community first belongs to God, who makes of it what He wants, even if we do not always understand it: His ways are not our ways. He concluded by giving thanks for the African community in Jaffa, and wishing its members a happy future.
After mass, the congregation was invited into the room at the nearby Terra Santa School in order to celebrate this anniversary together: “As with God, there is room for everyone!” said one of the organizers at the end of mass. With chorale concerts in different languages, photomontages depicting the history of the community, a special thanks to its members, and the profession of faith recited by the children … the party was as complete as could be. It also was an opportunity to recall and share the piece of advice received by relatives back in their home countries: “No matter where you go, take Jesus with you.”
Hélène Morlet» custodia.org