DOUGLASTON — At the Black History Month Mass on Feb.16, faithful from the Brooklyn and Rockville Centre, L.I., dioceses celebrated Mass with colorful thanksgiving and praise at Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston.
The Mass encouraged and welcomed lively ‘“amen” responses and spirit-filled reactions from the congregation as homilist Father Alonzo Cox spoke about being black and Catholic. The pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and coordinator of the diocese’s Vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns shared a poignant, family story.
“We come together today to celebrate Black History Month, and we come together today to give thanks and praise to God for our ancestors — our ancestors who paved the way for us to be able to be here today,” Father Cox said.
“I think of my own grandmother who wasn’t able to go to Mass in the South because she was black. She was unable to attend Mass because of the color of her skin. I thank God each and every single day for the example that she gave to me and my family. And that is what we celebrate.”
He encouraged the Catholics to persevere despite discrimination because “the struggle isn’t over.”
“We need to continue to build bridges, not walls,” Father Cox said. “We live in a world where we need to allow God’s love and God’s mercy to truly be at work in our society.”
Providing their vocal talents through song was the Sister Thea Bowman Choir from Rockville Centre, led by Darcel Whitten-Wilamowski from the Office of Multicultural Diversity. Moved by the soulful songs, several faithful stood up to praise and worship, lifting their prayers to God in the same fashion that their African ancestors once did.
The main celebrant for the Mass was Auxiliary Bishop Neil Tiedemann, C.P., the diocesan vicar of ministry to black Catholics. Assisting at the altar were local and visiting bishops, including retired Auxiliary Bishops Guy Sansaricq Octavio Cisneros and Rockville Centre Auxiliary Bishop Richard Henning.
It was the first time Wynsome Slocombe attended the diocesan Black History Month Mass in Douglaston. The parishioner from Our Lady of Charity, Crown Heights, and a group of women from her parish proudly spoke about their love for their parish and the community of Catholics who share the same faith and can identify with their cultural background.
“The diocese has thousands of black followers, and it’s important to recognize something like that so that your black Catholics can feel at home,” Slocombe said. “It’s important that we can teach our faith, and it has to be authentic to our belief systems, where we’re from and our African roots.”