St. Martin de Porres offers new Mass in Igbo

COLUMBIA—St. Martin de Porres Church is giving the faithful a chance to experience a new form of the celebration of Mass. 

The Midlands parish has started offering a traditional Mass celebrated in Igbo (pronounced ē-bō), one of the many languages spoken in Nigeria. There are plans to offer the Mass in Igbo once a month. 

Father Michael Okere, administrator, celebrated the first one in late December for about 40 people and the next is planned for Jan. 20. 

“We have so many cultures in our parish, and we want to help the people both appreciate others and be able to celebrate their own; to help them bring to this country the vastness and goodness of their culture,” Father Okere said. 

When the idea of having a Nigerian-style liturgy was first proposed, he said it was difficult to decide on a language because hundreds are spoken in the nation of 190 million. 

 Father Okere decided on Igbo because it is his native language, and using it to celebrate Mass helps him educate others and is a way for him to go back to his roots. 

He said the liturgy is mostly in Igbo, and worship materials are provided in both Igbo and English so participants can follow along.  Musicians play drums and other traditional African instruments, and Nigerian hymns are sung. 

St. Martin de Porres’ history is rooted in the African American tradition, but the parish is also attracting people from many different nations. Father Okere said nine Nigerian families are members of the parish, as well as people from other African nations. The parish also has a growing Vietnamese population and regularly hosts a Mass in Vietnamese. 

He hopes that in the future, more people will come from around the state to experience the Mass in Igbo. 

“This Mass combines a vibrance and uplifting style with reverence for the Eucharist,” he said. “It is both a chance for Africans to experience their culture and for Americans to see a different kind of worship.” 

St. Martin de Porres Church is located at 2229 Hampton St., Columbia. 

Photo provided