Celebrating the Gifts of African Spirituality on the Feast of Charles Lwanga


In this entry, Mary Stadnyk, The Monitor’s news editor and a member of Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro, shares how the parish celebrates university and diversity on this feast of St. Charles Lwanga & Companions: 

We’re all familiar with the expression: “Experience is the greatest teacher.” Do you think if we were to substitute the word “experience” with “tradition” or “custom” it would hold the same meaning? I think so.

 Whether it’s in our families, in the communities where we live or in our faith communities, maintaining traditions can be a beautiful teaching tool, especially if they are carried out in a meaningful and thoughtful way.

 At Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro, some newer traditions have been introduced by Father Daniel Ryan since he arrived as pastor 11 years ago. It wasn’t as if Father Ryan had intentionally set out to create the traditions, they more or less evolved on their own. He was the one who fostered them and set them into motion, and thankfully he did.

St. Charles Lwanga

Corpus Christi, which celebrates its 51st anniversary this year is a parish comprised of people who are literally from all over the world. What had used to be a predominantly white, middle-class parish has evolved into a multicultural parish with people of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. There is a significant population of immigrant parishioners who hail from the West African countries of Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana. In addition, there is an increasing Hispanic presence, a strong number of Asian and Eastern European parishioners, and others who have come from the Caribbean, Central American or South American countries.

 To celebrate the diverse populations that comprise the parish, it has become tradition to have four quarterly Masses each year that highlight the spiritualities of those diverse populations. Now in June, the many African martyrs who lost their lives in defense of their faith are commemorated. The most notable feast of the month is that of Ugandan martyrs, St. Charles Lwanga and his companions which is June 3. Other observances are held in the fall, when the parish remembers the Asian saints, particularly the Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese martyrs; in December, near the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is patroness of the Americas, when the parishioners from the various Hispanic countries are recognized, and in March, when the Feasts of St. Patrick and St. Joseph are celebrated. At that time, the contributions made by parishioners from the European countries are honored.

This coming weekend, Corpus Christi will have two reasons to celebrate. On Sunday, June 6, at the 11:30 a.m. Mass, we will honor those parishioners who hail from the various African countries and remember those saints from Africa, including Charles Lwanga and  his Companions. Father Evarist Kabagambe, who is a native of Uganda and now serves as an adjunct priest in Holy Innocents Parish, Neptune, has been invited to concelebrate the Mass with Father Ryan.

Following the Mass, the parishioners will joyfully celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, with its traditional Eucharistic procession around the parish grounds. The Blessed Sacrament will then be exposed for adoration until 6 p.m., at which time Benediction will be held.

Added to the day’s festivities, parishioners will also be invited to enjoy tasty refreshments that will be offered in Bogdan Hall.

If anyone would like to try something new and learn a little more about African spirituality, come on to Corpus Christi, 11 South Sunset Road, Willingboro, this coming Sunday.

                                                                                                              Mary Stadnyk

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For information about St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, go to http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=35 for the compelling story of the late 19th century Ugandan martyrs

Though Christian martyrdom has its roots in the very dawn of our faith, Charles Lwanga and his companions, perishing for the faith as they did in what are considered “modern times,” set an example for us all in these contemporary days when Christians still die for the faith around the world.

The following prayer calls this to mind: 

“Martyrs of Uganda, pray for the  faith where it is danger and for Christians who must suffer because of their faith. Give them the same courage, zeal, and joy you showed. And help those of us who live in places where Christianity is accepted to remain aware of the persecution in other parts of the world. Amen

In researching this part of the entry, I hoped to find films about St. Charles Lwanga and Companions that could open a window on their world. Sadly, I could only find one, very brief reference to him in a movie but it  is such a wonderful movie and their inclusion in it is marvelous.

That movie is “Millions” which tells the story of a 7-year old English lad with an instinctive gift for Catholic social teaching and an eye for the saints. This film, so critically acclaimed when it debuted in 2004 and so underviewed, tells the story of a bundle of money from a bank robbery tossed off a train that sets the little boy off on a quest to use the money to good purpose.

The Ugandan marytrs are among the saints who “visit” the child, encouraging him on his generous path. It’s a marvelous little film with only one flaw — the British dialect of some of the actors is hard to understand at times. Persevere though, and you’re in for an uplifting experience.

To round out the experience, blend up some traditional Ugandan sweet pea soup. It came as a real surprise and delight to find so many Ugandan recipes on the Internet! What a treat. I’m blending up some tonight for my friend Gloria Butler who is recovering from a broken shoulder. She loves soup and she really enjoys sweet potatoes in soup so I think this will hit the spot.

Stop by tomorrow when its close up & critiques will be on view at KTF.  

Ugandan Sweet Pea Soup

Ingredients: 1/4 cup chicken stock; 2 cups chopped Vidalia onion; 2 teaspoons crushed garlic; 1 teaspoon grated, fresh, peeled ginger; 1 teaspoon salt; 1/4 teaspoon cayanne pepper; 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper; 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds; 1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds; 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom; 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves; 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon; 1 teaspoon turmeric; 2 large chopped tomatoes; 1 sweet potato diced; 3- 1/2 cups water; 3 cups fresh or frozen green peas (thawed).

Directions: in a pot,  braise the onions and garlic in stock for 5-10 minutes. Mix in the ginger, salt and all the spices and cook for a few minutes, stirring often. Add tomatoes and sweet potato, stir and add 1-1/2 cups of water. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of peas and simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 2 cups of water. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth. Return to the pot, add the last cup of peas and cook on medium heat for 3-5 minutes.

                                                                                                                       Lois Rogers

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