Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

College Park

Diverse Francophone community hears priest from Ivory Coast

By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published June 23, 2017

COLLEGE PARK—“Bienvenue” read the sign welcoming participants to the evening Francophone track at the Eucharistic Congress on Friday, June 16.

More than 50 French-speaking Catholics gathered in the Gulfstream Room of the Marriott Gateway Hotel to sing hymns and hear encouraging words from the speaker, Father Leon N’Zi.

The group’s joy, as they sang “Roi des Rois” (“King of Kings”) and other native worship songs, spilled out into the hallway.

French-speaking Catholics pray in adoration during the Friday evening Francophone track at the Eucharistic Congress. More than 50 people attended the session to hear the speaker, Father Leon N’Zi, a native of Ivory Coast, West Africa. Photo By Thomas Spink

A native of Ivory Coast, West Africa, Father N’Zi was making a return visit to the Eucharistic Congress. He spoke at the Francophone track in 2015.

“I arranged my time to be here. They need more,” he said about the community.

He planned to share with them a message of the “great, great reward of God.”

“I will try and start some fire,” he said.

Father N’Zi earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theology from the Catholic University of West Africa. In 2004, he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. He served as a parochial vicar and led youth ministry and religious education programs there from 2004 to 2010.

A member of the charismatic renewal since he was 16, Father N’Zi has served as a teacher in several Catholic renewal movements. He is pursuing a graduate degree in contemporary theology at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada.

Christian Murray, a parishioner of St. Pius X Church in Conyers, is a native of Quebec. He moved to the Atlanta area in 2008 to start a family with his wife.

“I love the people, the people are very friendly,” he said of his new home.

Murray said he tries to attend Mass in French when available, as the liturgy is poetic to him.

“There’s a flavor to it,” he explained.

Murray said an English speaker living abroad “would jump on the chance” to go to Mass celebrated in his native language.

He said Father N’Zi spoke about the virtues of Jacob, including honesty and piety. He also spoke to the Francophone group—many who emigrated from the Caribbean, Africa or Canada—about the idolatry of money. Murray said the priest recognized that people leave their home countries thinking they will become rich.

“But we have to focus on God, not on temporal rewards,” said Murray about the message of Father N’Zi.

From the priest’s talk, Murray understood that one must give oneself completely to God and family.

He said Father N’Zi was an intense speaker but also made the group laugh. The priest did a little dance “to teach us not to focus on this world and glorious things but to seek to be humble and seek to make God’s will instead,” said Murray.

The Francophone program also included adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Bertruce “Betty” Alberique is a parishioner at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Decatur. She came to Atlanta from her native Haiti in 1995. She attends the Francophone track each year and a Creole Mass celebrated regularly at her parish.

“You just feel good … to worship in your own culture,” said Alberique.

Many in the Francophone community were looking forward to celebrating a charismatic retreat June 23-25 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Hapeville.