African Catholic community celebrates 20 years at Christ the King Parish, Moline
By Paul Thomas Moore
MOLINE — Every Mass is a celebration, but two Diocese of Peoria parishes hit some high notes — in more ways than one — on Sunday, Sept. 24.
At Christ the King Parish in Moline, the African Catholic community celebrated the 20th anniversary of its establishment in the parish. Bishop Louis Tylka was present to help the community mark the occasion and to lead the liturgy.
Symbolic of the generosity of the African Catholic community, even though it was their anniversary party, they gifted the bishop with a miter and chasuble representing African culture created especially for the day.
Father Donald Levitt, pastor of Christ the King when the community began arriving 20 years ago and continuing today, was also the recipient of their generosity. He was honored with a “total makeover” consisting of a kente (ceremonial robe), a cane and crown symbolizing respect and leadership, beads of wisdom, and shoes fit for a “King.”
Meanwhile, earlier that same day, the African Catholic community of St. Mary Parish in Rock Island visited St. Joseph Parish in Marseilles, participating in the 10 a.m. Mass with song and dance. (See related story and photo below.)
Music emanated from the Chorale Seraphique (“angelic choir”) as they led the congregation in song and accompanied the Ayotuvi liturgical dancers. This was not a Mass where the assembly had to be asked to sing — or sway — along.
In his homily, Bishop Tylka observed that “20 years ago this parish opened its arms and its door to say ‘welcome’ to this African Catholic community.” He likened the parish’s attitude of welcome to newcomers with what Jesus was trying to convey to his disciples in the parable of the landowner, where the workers who started early in the day begrudged those who came later receiving the same wage.
Bishop Tylka noted the workers’ resentment was a natural human reaction, but he added, “God’s thoughts and God’s ways are always filled with mercy, always showing love, always offering compassion and understanding and showing no distinction to anyone. Everyone . . . is loved by God in the same way.”
Georges Tounou, president of the African Catholic community at Christ the King Parish, called the day “a wonderful moment for us because when we were leaving Africa to come here, we didn’t know that we are going to meet a community so welcome.”
“We showed up,” he continued, “they welcome us with open hearts, open arms to the point that we feel at home, and that’s why we’re still here at Christ the King.”
“WE ARE FAMILY”
More than 20 years ago, a Togalese, Date Kpomassy and a Burkinabe, Desire Bado, walked to Christ the King Church to participate in their first Mass here. They had moved to the Quad Cities to work at Tyson Foods. Since then, the welcoming spirit of the parish has attracted hundreds more African Catholics, mostly from Togo.
“I’m so proud of them all, they’ve come a long way,” said Father Levitt. “They’ve brought us much joy.”
Asked to comment further on what being honored by the community meant for him as a pastor, Father Levitt called it “a sign of the love that they have for me, and I have for them. We are family.”
Concelebrating the Mass with Bishop Tylka and Father Levitt were Father Eric Kpotor, who served as parochial vicar at Christ the King from 2019 to 2023 and who has now returned to Togo to serve (from where many of the African Catholic community at Christ the King emigrated); Father Gerard Akizou, who is on the faculty of Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa; Father Telesphore Dusabe, who is currently a student at Divine Word College; Father Mark DeSutter, pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Moline; Father Matthew Cole, parochial vicar at Sacred Heart; Father Marc Nkulu, parochial vicar at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights; and Father Tony Ego, pastor of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Coal Valley, and Mary, Our Lady of Peace Parish in Orion.
Assisting at Mass were Deacon Kevin Hernandez and Deacon Mark Jackson of Christ the King Parish.
The Mass was followed by a banquet at Believers Together Hall.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Additional photos and video from the celebration at Christ the King will be posted to The Catholic Post’s Facebook page.
Marseilles hosts Rock Island African community
MARSEILLES — The African Catholic community of St. Mary Parish in Rock Island visited St. Joseph Parish in Marseilles on Sunday, Sept. 24, participating in the 10 a.m. Mass with song and dance.
The get-together was the vision of Father Sixmund Henry, administrator of St. Joseph, who is from Tanzania. After meeting the African Catholic Community in Rock Island, Father Henry felt an inspiration to share fellowship between the communities in Rock Island and Marseilles.
St. Joseph parishioner Janice Ruger could easily understand his motivation.
“Can you imagine leaving the United States and going to a foreign place in Africa, knowing no one, but making the best of it, then finding a group of Americans a few towns away that worship like you and speak your native English language and share your native heritage and holidays?” Ruger said in a presentation to the parish.
And so “Father Six” invited the St. Joseph African Catholic community to worship in Marseilles and to enjoy an after-Mass potluck, which he referred to as a “Porch Party.” About 70 St. Joseph parishioners took him up on the invitation.