Eritrean Priest to Visit Faithful in His Homeland Across North America
LOS ANGELES — An Eritrean priest serving Catholics in his native country who lives in Southern California has been appointed by Pope Francis to lead an apostolic visit across North America to assess the pastoral needs of the religious community.
Father Tesfaldet Tekie Tsada, who is an associate pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Los Angeles, said he plans to visit a dozen Eritrean Catholic communities in the United States and another half-dozen in Canada in the coming months. .
“I have to go see how they are,” he told the Catholic News Service on January 19.
Pope Francis appointed Tsada to carry out the visit on January 10. The appointment was made public in Washington on January 19 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.
The pope also appointed Msgr. Kesete Ghebreyohannes Weldegebriel, an official of the Archeparchy of Asmara, Eritrea, to make a similar apostolic visit to Eritrean Catholic communities in Europe.
Tsada, 52, said his mission requires him to learn about the pastoral needs of Eritrean Catholics, who worship at Mass under the Ge’ez rite, a liturgy rooted in the Church of Alexandria in Egypt.
The Eastern Catholic Church has five families or ritual groups. One of them is the Alexandrian Rite, to which the Coptic and Ethiopian/Eritrean Catholic churches belong.
The information Tsada collects and shares with Vatican officials will help determine whether an eparchy for North American Eritrean Catholics will eventually be established, with a bishop directly caring for the small number of faithful, Tsada said.
He expects the task to be difficult as the Eritrean Catholic community is widespread and “not well organised”.
“We have many different communities in many different cities. Now I will have to visit them directly to see their situation, see how they live community life (and) their relationship with the local ordinary, and then deliver the report to the Bishops of the Vatican and Eritrea,” Tsada said.
On its route, there are stops in Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas; Denver; Oakland, California; and Seattle, along with “six or seven” other cities in Canada, a country the priest said he never visited.
Along the way, he will determine the size of Eritrean Catholic communities, data the Vatican does not have, he said.
Tsada already cares for Eritreans, saying he celebrates Mass for about 70 Eritreans in Los Angeles at St. Albert the Great Church on Sunday afternoons and often visits a community in San Diego.
The priest arrived in the United States in 2014, residing at the 134-year-old Church of the Sacred Heart in Los Angeles. Ordained a Vincentian priest in 1997, he served for three years as a parish priest before being sent to Rome, where he obtained a degree in biblical theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
He then joined the Sons of Saint Anne and later ministered at the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Altavilla Milicia in the Archdiocese of Palermo, Italy. From 2009 to 2011, he served as superior and director of formation for the order in Nairobi, Kenya, and also served as chaplain to the Eritrean community in the East African country. From 2012 to 2013, he held the same position in the Philippines before arriving in the United States.