US Mission Celebrates her 25th Anniversary
It was a blessing to be part of this celebration. I enjoyed every moment of the Mass and the reception that followed. What a great joy to see all the priests of the Missionary Society of St. Paul full of life and joy at their ministry in the United States.” These words of Mrs. Gayle Gomez of St. Catherine of Sienna, Donaldsonville, Louisiana, described her experience and that of many others who gathered for the Mass of Thanksgiving celebrating the 25 years of ministry of the Missionary Society of St. Paul in the United States of America held on Saturday, October 29, 2011 at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Houston, Texas.
Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza, the Archbishop Emeritus of Galveston-Houston Archdiocese presided over the Mass. In his homily, he went down the memory lane highlighting how he received the first three MSP priests who came to the archdiocese in 1986 to work with the Josephites in their ministry to the African American Catholics. He praised the vision of the then Superior of the Josephites, Fr. John Fillipelli SSJ and all those who helped in the early days of MSP in America. He recalled his first impression of the trio – Frs. Anthony Afangide, Felix Elosi, and Vincent Inametti – as being young and zealous men, ready to work for God as their patron, St. Paul. He praised them for their readiness to learn a new language and culture. Even though the new priests had the command of the English language with British/Nigerian accents, they had to learn to understand the American English.
The Missionary Society of St. Paul has experienced a lot of growth since 1986 both in number of priests and ministries in the United States. From three, the number of priests working in the United States had grown to thirty nine. Apart from working in African-American parishes, they now work also in Caucasian and Hispanic parishes as well as in hospital and campus ministries. They have also spread from ministering only in Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to fifteen other dioceses in the United States.
As part of the growth being experienced, the Superior General, Very Rev. Anselm Umoren elevated the MSP in the United States to the status of a Region. During the Mass, he named the Regional Superior and his Council and they took their oath of fidelity to the Superior General. The Regional Superior is Very Rev. Desmond Ohankwere, the Vice Regional Superior is Very Rev. Robert Kajoh, and the Bursar of the Region who is also a member of the council is Very Rev. Emmanuel Esukpa.
Two other bishops were in attendance – Bishop Curtis Guillory of Beaumont Diocese, and Bishop Anthony Adaji, MSP of Idah diocese, Nigeria. Bishop Adaji speaking on behalf of the Ordinary of the Missionary Society of St. Paul, Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja Archdiocese, Nigeria commended the congregation for the 25 years of fruitful ministry in the United States and urged them to always remain faithful to their missionary commitments. There were over 50 priests in attendance including the Superior General of the Josephites, Very Rev. William (Bill) Norvel, SSJ who was later presented with a plaque for the Josephite order for their 25 years of collaboration with the Missionary Society of St. Paul in the United States. The liturgy was a blend of Africa and African-American songs. The prominence of the Word of God was brought to light with the beautiful procession with the lectionary to the altar led by some Cameroonian faithful. The Knights of Peter Claver Fourth Degree were on guard during the Mass. Many Associate Missionaries of St. Paul (AMSP), the lay members of the Missionary Society of St. Paul came from across the United States - Savannah in Georgia, Houston, Barrett Station and Port Arthur in Texas, Donaldsonville and Napoleonville in Louisiana. Some new members made their Solemn Admission into the AMSP in the presence of the Superior General of the Missionary Society of St. Paul. Also in attendance were many female religious of difference congregations. There were over 500 faithful at St. Peter’s who thanked God for the 25 years of ministry of the Missionary Society of St. Paul in the United States and prayed that the Society will continue to spread the word of God in America and other parts of the world for many more years to come.
- Fr. Felix Ilesanmi Osasona, MSP