Dec 8, 2013

At local African Mass, Nelson Mandela recalled as one who ‘stood against evil’



Story and photos by Terence Hegarty

SPRINGFIELD –Nelson Mandela was recalled as one who stood against evil and who was respectful to people throughout the 95 years of his life at a 5:30 p.m. Mass Dec. 8 at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish (OLSH) on Boston Road here.

The former president of South Africa passed away Dec. 5. More than 50 worshipers at the Mass listened as Mandela was honored and feted as a role model for all.

Father Fidele Ingiyimbere, a Jesuit priest from Burundi who is currently studying at Boston College, was the principal celebrant for the Mass. In his homily, he told those in attendance that Mandela “stood against the evil of injustice, the evil of not seeing the other as a human person.”

Mandela was well known for his ability to forgive others. He forgave those who imprisoned him for 27 years. And, upon his release, he orchestrated a peaceful end to Apartheid to become the first black president of South Africa.

While he recalled Mandela’s life, Father Ingiyimbere told the congregation to look toward the future. He said that Mandela was a “beacon” who helped to prepare people, “so that we can build a world where everybody is respected regardless of color, origin, wealth or social situation.”

Members from the local African Catholic community, many of whom are refugees from various countries of the continent, celebrate a Mass together once per month at OLSH. The Mass on Dec. 8 was the regularly scheduled monthly liturgy.

“It’s very difficult finding the right word to define the man,” said Stanislaus Coly, a native of Senegal, West Africa, referring to the world-renowned leader. Coly came to the U.S. 15 years ago. A parishioner of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish, Coly said of Mandela, “He was a big figure for the African community and the world.”

“I think he makes a good role model for future generations and the rest of the community going forward,” he told iobserve. Coly attended the Mass with his wife and baby daughter. He said that the example put forth by Mandela will continue to be vital for Africans since there is still much turmoil in many parts of the continent.

The Mass was held largely in English, but also in the Rundi language (one of the three languages spoken in Burundi) with traditional African liturgical music.

Coly was living in Africa in 1990 when Mandela was released from prison. “We were celebrating,” he recalled. “It was a very important event, that somebody who went through all of that (would) come back and forgive all of the people who actually put him in jail, I think it’s a very, very important message to the world --- that forgiveness.”

For a video version of this story, tune into an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.