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Immigrant Community Brings Mass in Swahili to St. Ann’s Parish

Parishioners bringing up the gifts of bread and wine during Mass on Nov. 7, 2021.


By Mitchell Palmquist | Photo Courtesy of St. Ann Parish | December 2021

Immigrant Community Brings Mass in Swahili to St. Ann’s Parish

On the first Sunday of each month, something new is happening at St. Ann Parish in east central Spokane: a Mass in Swahili. Many know the parish for its commitment to social justice work. As the neighborhood around St. Ann has changed, the church has strived to keep serving its neighbors and attracting new parishioners. Some of the new parishioners, immigrants from East Africa, proposed to the pastor that a Mass in Swahili be offered at the parish. Father Patrick Baraza, a native of Kenya and a professor at Gonzaga University, happily agreed. “It came from the people; I had no idea actually,” he said.

The Mass is the first in Swahili in Eastern Washington. Father Baraza said he is excited for the opportunity to celebrate Mass in his native language at his own parish. Prior to the parishioners approaching him about adding this Mass to the schedule, he said, “I never thought I would say Mass there in Swahili.”

A choir composed of parishioners and volunteers provides music for the liturgy.

“They worship in the way they worship back home, because the church in Africa is a vibrant church,” Father Baraza said. “Singing, praising God, with all your strength, with all your mind, with everything.”

For those interested in experiencing the Mass celebrated in a uniquely east African style, all are welcome to attend on the first Sunday of every month at 11 a.m. The Mass is the same Mass as is celebrated elsewhere, but the music, forms of participation, and experience will be something new for many Catholics. “It is a singing church,” Father Baraza said. “This is not acting; it is their way of life.”

St. Ann Catholic Church is located at 2116 E. 1st Avenue in Spokane.

To watch a short video put together by St. Ann’s Parish documenting the first Swahili Mass, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_gNnK-KNrM.

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Father Patrick Baraza with Virgina (Vickie) Gitau, one of the organizers of the new Swahili Mass. 

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Procession at the Start of Mass. September 4, 2021.

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Members of the Swahili Mass Choir pose after Mass at the third Swahili Mass on November 7, 2021.

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View of the congregation from the choir loft at the November 7th Mass.

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Congregation waves arms with the music during the Swahili Mass on October 2, 2021.