Our Lady of Hope-Tioga was packed April 29 for the opening mass commemorating 275 years of Black activity, achievement and presence in the Philadelphia-area Catholic Church.
The Our Lady of Hope Gospel Choir sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing” to begin the religious ceremonies. The Haitian Catholic Community Choir of Incarnation of Our Lord Parish serenaded the congregation with two spirituals that kept syncopation to bongo drums and a calypso beat.
The congregation received memorial certificates of attendance and a religious calendar naming and recognizing the almost 20,000 canonized African saints of the Catholic Church. A reception that followed featured music from the Our Lady of Hope Choir, a religious rap by Loretta the Griot and traditional performances by a teen and a pre-teen Haitian dance troupe.
Father Rayford Emmons delivered a sermon the focused on the history of Black Catholics in the Church from the time of Christ. Emmons pointed out that the Ethiopian wife of Moses, one of Jesus’ 12 apostles, one of the seven original deacons appointed in the Book of Acts, and the Gospel writer Mark were all of African descent.
The Since 1743 Celebration Committee that organized the event, is sponsoring a Philadelphia Area Black Catholic History tour in late October and early November. For more information, contact the committee at (215) 787-8100.
On Sunday April 29 at 11 a.m., Our Lady of Hope Church-Tioga, 1901 Tioga St. will present a historic event that will spotlight the 275th anniversary of African-American Catholics in the Philadelphia. The event is free and open to the public.
Father Rayford Emmons, Assistant Pastor, is the chairman of the Since 1743 Celebration Committee that organized the event. According to Emmons, 60, this event was conceived to, "Bring public attention to the history of African-Americans in the Catholic church; it's an opportunity to increase enthusiasm of African Americans in the Catholic church; and it's an opportunity to find areas to increase African-American participation in the Catholic church."
Emmons is a West Philadelphia native. He graduated from St. Thomas More High School, St. Charles Seminary, and earned his MBA from St. Joseph's University. Emmons was the first African American priest to be ordained for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia - of the Diocesan Priest order.
Emmons said in 1743, at Old St. Mary Catholic Church in Philadelphia, a servant named James was the first recorded African-American to be baptized into Catholicism – St. Mary is the 2nd oldest Catholic church in Philadelphia. Sunday's 275th Anniversary of African-American Catholics in the Philadelphia celebration will kick off a 6-7 year annual anniversary celebration, this celebration of Blacks in the Catholic church is the first of its kind in the city!
Attendees of the Sunday's special mass will receive a commemorative certificate as a keepsake. Following this special mass, attendees will be invited to a social reception and dinner that will include choral performances from Our Lady of Hope Choir and a Haitian Choir. Loretta "The Griot" Thompson will provide an informative and entertaining presentation on African-American history.
For more information, contact Our Lady of Hope Church-Tioga, at: (215) 329-8100.