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Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Hear (Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash)

The Archdiocese of Newark’s African American, African, and Caribbean Apostolate will celebrate Black History Month with four special Masses and Synod listening sessions throughout the month of February.

Though the Archdiocese traditionally commemorates Black History Month with one large Mass celebrated by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark, at Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, this year the Apostolate decided to hold four smaller Masses in local parishes to make the celebration more accessible and personal for parishioners. One Mass will be held in each of the four counties overseen by the Archdiocese — Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Union — with the county’s bishop presiding. All are invited to attend so they can honor Black culture and its impact on American history.

“These Masses are an opportunity to pay tribute to the numerous, often-unrecognized contributions of Black people and celebrate the legacy of our brothers and sisters in the intimate and spiritual setting of our local churches,” said Father Emeka Okwuosa, S.D.V., coordinator of the African American, African, and Caribbean Apostolate. “I hope everyone will join and honor our community, our ancestors, and everything they have done to benefit society.”

The following is the schedule for the Black History Month Masses:

Bergen County
Sunday, February 6, at 3 p.m.
St. Anastasia Church in Teaneck
with Bishop Michael A. Saporito

Essex County
Sunday, February 13, at 12 p.m.
St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Bloomfield
with Bishop Manuel A. Cruz, D.D.

Hudson County
Sunday, February 20, at 1 p.m.
St. Aedan’s: The St. Peter’s University Church in Jersey City
with Bishop Gregory J. Studerus

Union County
Sunday, February 27, at 12 p.m.
Church of St. Joseph the Carpenter in Roselle
with Bishop Elias R. Lorenzo, O.S.B.

Parishioners are encouraged to join listening sessions following Mass, during which they can share their thoughts and suggestions about how to improve the Catholic Church. These sessions are part of “Synod 2021-2023: For a Synodal Church,” a process initiated by Pope Francis in October 2021 that urges Catholics around the world to meet and discuss how the Church can better connect with 21st century congregations. The outcomes of all local listening sessions worldwide will ultimately be consolidated into reports for discussion among the world’s bishops and the Vatican to help guide Pope Francis on decisions about how the Church should proceed in the future.

“Our brothers and sisters in the Black community really love this Church,” said Father Emeka. “They really care about this Church. But, unfortunately, some believe they have not felt the same kind of love from the Church. So, my prayer is that during these listening sessions they’ll be able to express how they feel about the Church, and I pray that their opinions will help the Church listen to its children who feel overlooked.”

There are an estimated 34,000 Black Catholics within the Archdiocese of Newark as of 2016, according to statistics from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ V Encuentro initiative. The Archdiocese’s African American, African, and Caribbean Apostolate serves parishioners by sharing and strengthening the Catholic faith, working to eradicate racism and oppression, encouraging Black youth to embrace their cultural identity, and promoting leadership in the Black community, among other activities. To learn more about the African American, African, and Caribbean Apostolate, visit www.rcan.org.

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