WINDSOR TERRACE — When Father Franklin Ezeorah learned he had been selected to deliver the homily at the Mass marking the Diocese of Brooklyn’s official celebration of Black History Month, he felt a bit nervous.
“I don’t usually give the homily on such a big occasion. I am honored and nervous at the same time,” he said.
Father Ezeorah has given a great deal of thought to the message he wants to get across at the Mass to take place on Sunday, Feb. 28, at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, Prospect Heights, at 3 p.m. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will be the main celebrant.
“I have themes I want to touch upon. The first is the celebration of Black History Month itself and why we should thank God for it,” he said. He will also talk about the role Black Catholics play in the church and the importance of diversity.
Father Ezeorah is the parochial vicar for St. Martin de Porres Parish, Bedford-Stuyvesant. Father Alonzo Cox, the pastor, is the director for the Vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns for the diocese.
Father Cox teased his parochial vicar about his role in the upcoming Mass during a prayer service at Our Lady of Victory Church on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 18. “No pressure! No pressure!” he joked.
Every February, the diocese holds a Mass to mark Black History Month. This year’s Mass, which is taking place on the second Sunday of Lent, is expected to attract a smaller congregation, given the churches’ pandemic and social distancing requirements.
The racial reckoning the nation has gone through in the aftermath of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s deaths and the Black Lives Matter movement’s growth will add another dimension to this year’s event.
Father Ezeorah was born and raised in Nigeria. He heard the calling to the priesthood very early on. “From my childhood, I knew I wanted to be a priest,” he said.
He was ordained on July 7, 2007 — “Three sevens — the seventh day in the seventh month in the seventh year,” he said.
Prior to serving at St. Martin de Porres Parish, he was the parochial vicar for Sacred Heart Parish, Cambria Heights.
He is one of many Nigerian priests and religious who have come to serve in the Diocese of Brooklyn in recent years. There is a reason for that, he said. “The diocese is a very welcoming place for immigrants. When somebody treats you well, you want to do everything you can for them,” he said.
The diocese has also demonstrated respect for minorities, Father Ezeorah said. “The word gets around and it makes people want to serve here,” he said.
The diocese has done a lot to raise awareness of the important contributions Black Catholics have made to the church, according to Father Ezeorah, who said the credit for that belonged to Bishop DiMarzio. “I am so grateful the bishop supports the Vicariate for Black Catholic Concerns,” he said.
The Gospel on Feb. 28 will be from St. Mark and will deal with the Transfiguration of Jesus. It is another theme Father Ezeorah plans to emphasize. “We can all see our lives transformed if we live through Jesus Christ,” he said.