- Faith & Family
A bell sounded in the Bunche Park area on Sunday morning. It was the same bell that stopped ringing three years ago, when St. Phillip Neri Catholic Church — first established in 1951 — closed because of the former archbishop’s efforts to merge nearby parishes. Some community members started to miss hearing that bell the church rang before the priest entered the parish, according to Claretta Smith Henry, 60, who has been a member of the church since she was seven or eight years old.
“It keeps God alive,” she said.
And for the past year, the bell has rung again before Sunday mass services, since the church reopened.
When the resilient church resurrected, a new priest by the name of Father Chanel Jeanty, 40, came along and has helped members take their spiritual walk to the next level, according to Henry.
“It’s not just a Sunday church,” she said. “He’s bringing the church to life seven days a week with the fellowship, church events and special services.”
Before, people would mainly come to church on Sundays and that was it, according to Henry.
But not anymore, the church has had a very active Advent season and has a lot of services throughout the week, including: Morning mass every day except Thursdays, faith gatherings on Mondays, Bible study on Wednesdays, and young adult fellowships every two weeks.
“Faith is not just about coming to church on Sunday, but it’s a 24-hour, seven-day a week commitment to living the life and practicing faith,” Jeanty said.
Bringing others to God
Although the church has displayed a lot of progress over the past year, Jeanty and members have several plans for “reviving the parish.” They plan on having events to evangelize, creating a sense of cultural identity and making the parish more appealing.
“It will give us the opportunity to welcome new people and welcome back the old people,” Jeanty said.
St. Phillip Neri, one of the two only African-American Catholic churches in Miami, plans on reaching out to the youth, also.
One way the church has gotten the youth involved is by having the Youth L.E.A.D. set up an organic farmers market youth stand on Sundays.
Jeanty understands that the youth are in a rebellious stage and he plans on finding a way to “fire the youth up about Jesus,” he said.
“The truth remains the same,” Jeanty said. “Even though times are changing; it’s a matter in explaining them, so people can understand in these times the teachings of faith and the teachings of Jesus Christ.”
By Malika A. Wright