My Impressions from the mass from the African Catholic Chaplaincy by Jan-Peter Paul

For nearly a year a mass has been held for Catholics from Africa at St Mary’s church in Meilahti (Mäntytie 2). Father Leonard (Leo) Wobila from Cameroon has been given the responsibility for the African community in Finland by bishop Teemu.

My wife Susanne and myself attended the African mass i January. We lived in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s for several years in Africa and often attended the local Sunday mass. Father Leo had brought the African tradition to Finland and adapted it well to this country. The church was full. The children were well disciplined and the atmosphere truly joyful at the same time being very humble and serene. Some highlights:

The music: The choir consisting of members of the local African community were the key element keeping the service together and at the same time in motion. The lead singer was excellent. The Choir and the community attending the service followed in song. The totality created a sense of community as Africans representing several different tribes and nations attended.

The sermon: Father Leo explained the gospel and the other readings. At the end he asked relevant questions relating to his sermon. Responses varied, but the points of the sermon and the texts always came out in the end.

The collection: Two ladies stood in front of the altar with collection baskets and the community came forward giving their contributions to the church. The philosophy behind this practice is valuable. God does not ”beg” for contributions as is the practice in our church today during mass. Instead one gives his/hers contribution to God by coming forward to the altar. Here one’s contribution is given freely not begged for by God.

The Sunday school: In the front rows of the church were several small children. They were quite and sitting straight and in good order. No playing or screaming. The young African lady supervised them with authority and kindness. This was a wonderful experience as often during Sunday mass children are speaking, crying, playing with the phones and touch screens. I understood that before mass the children had religious education where the gospel and other readings had been explained to them in advance. I think that many parish priests have a lot to learn from this practice.

Friendliness: The African mass is inclusive not exclusive. You feel truly welcome and the kindness shown is unique in a Finnish context.

Father Leo has achieved a lot in the short time he has lead the African Community. The peoples and tribes from Africa living in our country have found a religious home and a place of worship.

I wish success and all God’ blessings to all involved in this important work.

Jan-Peter Paul/January 2018

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