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A JOYFUL (KiSwahili) NOISE

The following story appeared in the November 18 Idaho Catholic Register.

About 150 attend the KiSwahili Mass every first and third Sunday at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Boise. The Mass brings together Catholics from several African nations to pray and celebrate in a language they know and to hear music that is more traditional to their culture. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)


By Gene Fadness

Editor


For two Sundays every month, the diverse African Catholic community in the Boise area can be found attending any number of parishes throughout the Treasure Valley.


But, on the other two Sundays – the first and third Sunday – they get to be together as one community, celebrating the Mass in their own language and with their own vibrant music at Our Lady of Rosary parish in Boise.

Father Evarist Shiyo, a religious order priest from the Apostolic Life Community of Priests (ALCP), helped start the KiSwahili Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church about a

dozen years ago. Since then the Mass has grown in popularity, attracting as many as 160.



But, there have been changes and challenges along the way due to priests being reassigned and then the COVID pandemic.


When Father Shiyo was transferred from Boise to Salmon in about 2011, Father Reggie Nwauzor stepped in to assist, even though he was not as familiar with KiSwahili. (KiSwahili is the language, Swahili is the culture.)


When Father Nwauzor was transferred to north Idaho, Father Shiyo came back to Boise in about 2018 and resumed his celebration of the Mass. Then, the COVID pandemic hit, putting a stop to the Masses for a couple of years.


Children come forward to receive a blessing from Father Evarist Shiyo, ALCP, at a recent KiSwahili Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Boise. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)


When the community as able to gather again, the Mass was moved to Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in east Boise, where it continues to be celebrated at 11 a.m. on the first and third Sundays. Attendance at a mid-October Mass there was 142, Father Shiyo said, indicating that the community is coming back to pre-pandemic levels.


Between 140 and 160 people regularly attend the KiSwahili Mass on the first and third Sunday of every month at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in east Boise. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)


Those attending coming primarily from the east African nations of Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in central Africa. Many of the younger attendees are from Tanzania and grew up in refugee camps, said Father Shiyo who is also from Tanzania, the most populous nation south of the equator. Other nations represented at the KiSwahili Mass are Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, among others.


Altar servers at the KiSwahili Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Boise. Center, native dishes are an important part of the social gathering of the community after each Mass. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)


They come for primarily three reasons, Father Shiyo said.


Obviously, the first is being able to fully understand the liturgy in a familiar language.


“For those who cannot fully understand English as a second language, this Mass is a special blessing,” Father Shiyo said. “They feel comfortable when they pray in their own language. When they go to English Masses, they cannot get the whole homily, the whole message, because of the language barrier.”


A second reason is the social inter-action. The community is dispersed throughout the Treasure Valley and have their own jobs and lives, but when they come together for Mass it is a reunion of community, enhanced by a common faith.


“There’s no way they can meet and embrace each other and celebrate their life as a praying community,” when they are spread out over the valley, he said. “Here they are brought together under the umbrella of our faith.”


A third reason, is that the sacraments – such as baptisms and marriages – are so much more meaningful in a language where they can better express themselves and incorporate the traditions of their respective cultures, he said.


Father Evarist Shiyo, ALCP, blesses a young man who helps bring the gifts. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)


Therence Kagoma is the director of the choir and also plays the congo and drums. The KiSwahili Mass has been an important part of his life in Boise since he was married here over a decade ago.


Important is the vibrant and joyful music that fills the church during each Mass. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)


The music is an integral part of the Mass, perhaps more so than in Anglo Masses. While the liturgy and the homily are in KiSwahili, the music is a mix of KiSwahili, French and English, Kagoma said.


While the Mass is celebrated in KiSwahili, the entire Catholic com-munity is always warmly welcomed. Languages vary, but the liturgy is universal. While many Catholics will not understand what is being said, they know what happens on the altar.


If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.











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