By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

There is a world of difference between Africans and African- Americans, and it has very little do with the geographic distance between two continents.

“There is culture shock between both sides,” said Vunda Moutchie, who came to America three years ago and is living in West Philadelphia’s St. Francis de Sales Parish with his wife, Vivian, and young son, Arnold.

For one thing, in Cameroon, his native land, many Africans are Catholic and the Church is growing. Most African-Americans are not Catholic, and even if so have customs and traditions quite different than those found in Africa.{{more}}

For this reason, there will be a forum held at St. Francis de Sales on Saturday, Oct. 9, involving members of both communities, which will begin with a Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Senior and continue with a full day of programs and panel discussions.

Moutchie, who is studying in the MAAC (Ministry to AfricanAmerican Catholics) Program at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, is helping to organize the event, along with the archdiocesan Office for Black Catholics and the Martin de Porres Foundation.

“It certainly is something we are happy to coordinate,” said Father Stephen D. Thorne, director of the Office for Black Catholics. “It’s a needed conversation about the great challenges we face.”

Also, Father Thorne said, “the Church is growing in great numbers in Africa and we want to share that story. It should be a great day.”

Because of cultural differences, Africans and African-Americans often do not mingle. One of the presentations Moutchie hopes to have will be done by a married African- American person who can share the experiences and challenges African-Americans have faced and overcome.

“The main thing is we will be celebrating our Catholic faith,” Moutchie said. “We are starting with Catholics but hope to involve non-Catholics too.”

For more information on the African and African-American forum call the office for Black Catholics at 215-587-3634.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.