By Marc and Julie Anderson
TROY — Father Francis Bakyor knows when he’s got a good thing going.
That’s why he has made the joint celebration of his three parishes — St. Charles Parish in Troy, St. Benedict Parish in Bendena and St. Joseph Parish in Wathena — begun three years ago, an annual event.
But this year’s celebration of Koinonia Sunday (“koinonia” is Greek for “fellowship” or “community”) also boasted an international flair as Father Bakyor, a native of Ghana, again invited the St. Francis Africans Catholic Community of the Kansas City metro area to participate in the celebration.
Members sang hymns of thanksgiving in Swahili, played traditional African instruments and danced in procession before the outdoor Mass celebrated Sept. 10, which was followed by a potluck luncheon along with games for the children.
But this year was different in another respect as well.
Although he has been invited to previous celebrations, this year marked the first time Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was able to preside — which meant processing in behind the African community.
“It’s great to be Catholic,” exclaimed the archbishop at the opening of the Mass. And later, “The church is meant to be this universal family.”
In his homily, Archbishop Naumann expanded on the idea of universality, saying parish communities are important in helping and encouraging people in their daily lives on their respective paths to holiness.
But he also reminded the faithful that not only do they belong to a particular parish, but also a particular archdiocesan family as well — and an even larger family of believers around the world.
He was especially grateful, he continued, for priests such as Father Bakyor.
These men, he said, serve as physical reminders of the global church.
After the homily, the archbishop officially installed Father Bakyor as pastor of the three parishes. As part of the installation rite, members of the parishes’ pastoral and finance councils were invited to stand near the altar and offer their support.
In turn, Father Bakyor promised to always be attentive to the needs of his parishioners and to seek their counsel. At the end of the rite, the archbishop reminded the 200 to 300 in attendance that one of the primary duties of a parish priest is to serve as a teacher of the Catholic faith, after which the newly installed pastor led the community in the recitation of the Nicene Creed, known down through the ages as an authoritative expression of the Catholic Church’s faith.
After Communion, Father Paul Bekye, a classmate of Father Bakyor ordained the same day 35 years ago in Ghana, was invited to speak to the people.
In his comments, he said Father Bakyor’s home diocese of Wa is extremely grateful for the love Father Bakyor has been shown in Kansas.
“Thank you to all for accepting him,” said Father Bekye, as he offered congratulations to the newly installed pastor.
Near the end of Mass, David Masters, a member of St. Charles Parish, offered congratulations on behalf of the three parishes and also thanked the archbishop for his presence.
“We are proud to have a new pastor,” Masters said.
During the luncheon, several parishioners expressed how much they enjoy the annual event.
Owen Root, a member of St. Joseph Parish, said he looks forward to the celebration as “all three parishes come together for one celebration of the church.”
Richard Ernzen, a member of St. Charles Parish, said the parishes’ newly installed pastor is also a good example of the church’s universality.
John Wood, a member of St. Benedict Parish, has attended all three celebrations.
“It’s a neat feeling that all three of the parishes can come together,” he said, adding he also enjoyed the African community’s singing and dancing.
“Visually, it was universal,” he said.
Wood’s son, 17-year-old Linus, echoed his father’s thoughts.
“The fact that we all share the Eucharist no matter where you are in the world is amazing,” he said.