As we may all know, the impact of migration on any group of people can be adverse. Actually, some have referred to migration as a phenomenon of “uprooting disorder” with identifiable psychological symptoms of alienation, nostalgia, depression, and sense of helplessness. This is because with migration comes the loss of traditional institutions and the rupture of the socio-cultural nature of traditional family ecologies.
Many immigrant groups have attempted to counter the adverse impact of migration by forming native church communities where they can experience liturgical worship in ways that are consistent and meaningful to their native experience of church. While this is our case, the growing presence of our mothers and fathers and our mother and father in-laws presses upon us the need to provide them a liturgical environment where they could worship God in familiar ways and in a style of worship that is spiritually fulfilling.
It was in this light that Fr. Eustace called a meeting of Igbo priest and some lay people at his residence at St. Anthoninus, in Newark in the early months of the year 2000 to discuss the possibility of beginning an “Igbo Mass” to be celebrated once every month so as to provide for our people liturgical worship that is culturally relevant. All in attendance agreed and in April of that same year we started celebrating mass once a every month at St. Ann’s Church Newark. The community began to grow and shortly after, Fr. Anselm Nwaorgu suggested that we celebrate the Mass twice every month and that depending on the turnout, we should think of celebrating the Mass every Sunday and use that platform to form a formidable community for our people—a community where faith sharing and liturgical experience can form the basic pillars upon which we can provide an extensive network for socialization as well as structural, emotional, and functional support for our people and where the Word of God can speak to our experiences and challenges as immigrants in the United States;
This move was very critical because it was predicated upon the understanding that for the Igbo, individual existence is found, not in the self, as an individual, but in the self as community: “I am because we are; without ‘us’ I am not, and since we are, therefore I am”. It is crucial that for the sake of our identity, for the transmission of our cultural heritage to our children, and for history to know us for who we are, life for us, needs to be life-in-community. Thanks to God, the bi-monthly Mass and eventually weekly Masses paid off. Our numbers continued to increase. In February of 2001, The Nigerian Igbo Catholic Community was formally constituted under the Vicariate of Pastoral Ministry of the Archdiocese of Newark by Most Reverend Paul Gregory Bootkoski who was at the time the acting bishop of Newark after His Grace, Most Reverend Theodore McCarrick the then Archbishop of Newark was transferred to the Cardinal Seat of Washington D.C. and Rev. Fr. Anselm Nwaorgu was named as the Administrator of the Igbo Catholic Community, of the Archdiocese of Newark.
In September of 2001, we moved our worship site from St. Ann’s Newark to St. Charles Borromeo Church, Newark, a church that had been merged to Blessed Sacrament Church under the pastorship of Rev. Fr. Anselm Nwaorgu. In September of 2004, our worship site was moved to it present location at Blessed Sacrament Church, 15 Van Ness Place, Newark.
Over these past years, the Community has continued to grow in numerical strength, internal organization, and spiritual and social programs geared toward providing spiritual growth and community building for the church family.