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Tear down what ‘blocks ears’ from hearing God’s voice

RIVIERA BEACH  |  The 34th annual Black Cultural Awareness Celebration and Mass was a joyous occasion Feb. 23, 2024, at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Riviera Beach. The theme for the day was “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps 116:9).

“We celebrate today on behalf of the Catholic Church and the Diocese of Palm Beach,” said Father Peter Truong, pastor. “We celebrate Black history in the context of the Christian and the Catholic faith, and in honor and appreciation of the participation of our Black brothers and sisters from the parish and the local Christian communities.”

The afternoon began with an array of performers, including chorale groups from the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church and Ebony Chorale of the Palm Beaches, which joined the St. Francis of Assisi choir with inspirational songs of worship and praise.

Katie Gilmore of Delray Beach expressed her joy, saying, “I am singing with two choirs today in celebrating this day.” Carolyn Lester added, “My daughter is a member of the chorale. It is always a beautiful celebration.”

Dancers with the Portraits of the Word ministry from Bible Teachers International performed with colorful flags expressing their love of God through liturgical dance, a form of joyful praise and worship of God.

Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito presided at the Mass with Father Truong and Father Cyril Imohiosen, who lives at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in West Palm Beach, assisted by Father Brian King, episcopal secretary.  

The bishop welcomed everyone, saying, “As always, I am delighted to be at St. Francis of Assisi Parish and, as every year, to celebrate this Black Cultural Awareness Mass during Black History Month. And it is a great joy to be with all of you, and we thank God for the richness of our culture and thank God for the richness of who we are as his people.”  

Father Imohiosen’s homily focused on the Gospel reading, Mk 9:2-10. “Every second Sunday of the holy season of Lent, the church calls each and every one of us Christians to reflect upon the Transfiguration of our Lord, Jesus Christ,” he said.

Noting the importance of listening to God, Father Imohiosen said, “Just as we heard in the Gospel reading today, a voice was heard in the cloud, ‘This is my beloved son. Listen to him.’”  

There is “so much noise in our lives today, who do we listen to? Do we actually recognize the voice of the one that we are supposed to listen to?” he asked.

Explaining what to reflect upon during Lent, Father Imohiosen said, “Christ is asking us in this holy season of Lent to tear down that thing that blocks our ears from listening to the voice of the Lord and go down the mountain to give us that precious gift of forgiveness, give us that precious gift of love, give us that precious gift of justice, give us that precious gift of oneness and sensitivity because that is what makes us who we are.”

Other performers at the celebration included a cellist, the Rev. Marie Manuel, and a young orator, Jaxon Barnes, who received robust applause. “Let us all have love in our heart, embrace it and never let it go,” Barnes said, advising everyone “to move beyond love, peace and justice, so we can live in peace in this generation and generations beyond.”

For more information on St. Francis of Assisi Parish, call 561-863-2985, visit or connect on Facebook.

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