A little bit of Africa came to Buffalo when the Office of Cultural Diversity held its annual African bazaar. The event, Held at Our Lady of hope Parish in Buffalo, raised money to help Vive La Casa Refugee Center in Buffalo.
Set in the tradition of the African harvest festival, the Sunday, Oct. 21 bazaar saw a sharing of wealth with the community.
"During their harvest time, a lot of the churches have bazaars. At the bazaar, the people bring their harvest - what they grew. They bring it to their church and the church blesses it, and then they auction it off. The money that they raise at the bazaar goes to fixing the church," explained Milagros Ramos, director of the diocesan Office of Cultural Diversity.
The Buffalo version saw donated theme baskets of children's toys, breakfast cereals and household products auctioned off. African foods were available to further give the social hall of Our Lady of Hope Parish a feeling for the motherland of St. Josephine Bakhita, St. Augustine and St. Monica. The money will go to buying goods for the African refugees at Vive La Casa. In the past, funds have gone to Catholic Charities and Reaching Out to Africa. "Any agency that's helping the African community here and the refugees," said Ramos.
To help set the proper mood of thanksgiving, a prayer service was held Saturday evening at Our Lady of Hope. Father Mark Itua, administrator of Christ Our Hope Parish in French Creek, spoke about God's plan for those who may be suffering.
Father Itua, who comes from Nigeria, knelt before the altar adorned with pumpkins in keeping with the harvest theme. He delivered a message of hope for all people who are struggling in their lives. Like Jesus, we all have a cross to bear, but that cross only strengthens us to be better prepared for the next task.
"Are you afraid of the cross?" Father Itua asked. "He is telling you He is not done with you. Do not be afraid."
While facing the congregation, Father Itua told those gathered that they must realize their individual gifts that God has given them, and share them with others.
"We see that whatever you have, if you don't ever use it, you lose it," he said. "If you have a gift of cooking as a woman and you refuse to cook because you're selfish, then you lose it."
He asked everyone to consider their legacy, how they would be remembered if they died today. Would it be as a kind and generous person? He then told the story of a man who had great monetary wealth, who learned he would die in a few days. He told his wife to sell all his possessions and place the cash into his casket when he died. The wife placed only a small slip of paper in the casket. When asked about it, she replied, "The casket is too small to hold all the money, so I wrote a check."
The evening included adoration, music by John Panepinto, music director for Our Lady of Hope, and soup.
Bishop Richard J. Malone led Mass on Sunday, which included multiple choirs performing traditional African songs and prayers, and a thanksgiving hymn, "How Great Thou Art." At one point Bishop Malone invited the children of the parish up to the altar to recite the Lord's Prayer.
Father Humphrey Milimo, OMI, parochial vicar of Holy Angels, Holy Cross and Our Lady of Hope parishes in Buffalo, gave a homily during Sunday's Mass, quoting from Pope Francis' 2013 World Youth Day message, where he called for young people to be the saints of the 21st century.
"We need saints without cassocks, without vows," he said. "We need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to movies and listen to music, that hang out with their friends. We need saints who place God in first place ahead of succeeding in a career. We need saints who look for time to pray everyday, who know how to give love with purity, chastity and all good things. We need saints for the 21st century with a spirituality appropriate for our time. We need saints who have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change. We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world, and not be afraid of living in the world. We need saints who drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and listen to their iPods. We need saints who love the Eucharist, who are not embarrassed to eat a pizza with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, theater. We need saints that are open and sociable. We need saints who are in the world and live in it."
This year marks the ninth anniversary of the African bazaar, which is held at different parishes with a large African population. Our Lady of Hope has a multicultural and multigenerational congregation of African, African-American, Hispanic and Burmese communities.