The Atlanta Gambia Christian Organization is set, yet again to celebrate the feast of the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known in The Gambia as Sang Marie. Sang Marie is the biggest feast in the Catholic Diocese of Banjul given the Blessed Virgin is the Patron Saint of the Diocese and the Republic of The Gambia given that the Island outside the capital is named Kombo St. Mary in honor of the Blessed Virgin as Catholic historian Charles Thomas puts it. “One could say that the vast celebrations are most fitting for Gambians, Christians and non-Christians alike. Apart from the two cathedrals in Banjul (Anglican and Roman Catholic) other major locations and municipalities have been named after Mary, among them our capital city with its environs, called the Island of St. Mary; there is also Cape St. Mary and Kombo St. Mary. Again, apart from the usual unified celebrations of Gambians, both religious and cultural, we also have in this feast of the Assumption a unity in belief and in our respective scriptures Assumption a unity in belief and in our respective scriptures in the event of the Annunciation to Mary by the angel, Gabriel in the mystery of the Virgin Birth, in the sanctity if Mary in her primacy in human as well as religious history.” This make it all the more difficult to understand how and why a Con artist like Zakir Naik can force the hands of the Gambian leadership to declare an unconstitutional Islamic Republic, that narrative is for another day though.
The three day event, now an annual pilgrimage to Atlanta by Christians and non Christians according to the President, Jean Marenah ; will kick off of Friday 19th August with a Prayer Vigil to be held at the at the Catholic Church in Stone Mountain. According to Mr. Marenah, his Organization has flown in from Senegal, Abbé Jules Pascal Coly, a renowned Catholic Exorcist to lead the prayer vigil on Friday night. He went on to add that there is no better time to come together and pray than now. “Prayer heals the divide and besides, its God’s gift to us,” he quipped. Marenah whose term is up, also paid tribute to the Men and Women in the Executive and the general membership of the group citing, “They are a class act.” He thanked all for their support during the past two years claiming, “leading this group has shown and taught me a lot about life.”
On August 20th, Saturday, a solemn high mass of thanksgiving to honor the Blessed Virgin will be held at the St. John’s the Evangelist Catholic Church, in Hapeville, Ga. The Principal celebrant will be Gambia’s Fr. Bruno Toupan, Parish Priest of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Banjul. A benediction and adoration of the Blessed sacrament will follow the mass, a first as part of Sang Marie here.
Speaking on the preparedness of the choir, its Director, Vincent Ndow the Choir Master alluded to the fact that months of preparation are about to be put on display. He assured all and sundry that this years service will be nothing short of a replica of the Banjul Cathedral. Well, this reporter can add that, having the Choir Master of the Cathedral of the Banjul Diocese will surely add to the beauty and pageantry of the salutations and adoration of our Mother In Faith. Ndow, the only known Chorister of Gambian decent for a major Catholic Church in the United States, exudes a lot of confidence in his choir. On Sunday he spoke on Kadu Ngem ak Ntofel and had this to say; ” We are ready and God willing we will fill all the hearts with lovely music.”
In a separate conversation with the Dean of Sang Marie himself, Mr. Zack Ogoo, he said they are blessed to be celebrating twenty three years of Sang Marie. He narrated how a few people started the Sang Marie more than two decades ago in a small Atlanta apartment under Fr. Tony Gabisi. He praised the Almighty for all the marvels he has done for the group and by extension, the pilgrims who have been coming for the past years. Ogoo further commented on the excellent family relationship between Christians and Muslims in the Atlanta area, “citing that’s the beauty of our country.” He added that when its Sang Marie in Banjul, you don’t know who is a Muslim or Christian, adding, “its the same here in Atlanta, ” for which they are thankful to God he chimed.
The Church services will be followed by an all-night reception and cultural evening which will also feature the West African Masquerade Awo Hunting Society (WAMS), the pre-eminent Hunting Society in the Diaspora; and according to their members, they are poised to put on a show like no other.
On Sunday there will be a picnic held in honor of the visiting pilgrims.The ” ball is at center field” set for yet another Sang Marie extravaganza in Atlanta and whether its “ Tartum Ego, Turu Mariama Yaaye La nyu di teral tey, Yen nyi neka e Domam, Voy len; nav len tuur am or Ngurul Mbok Mariama, the pilgrims are ready to sing the glory and assumption of their Mother in Faith, “Jigen ji amul Gaka.”
Well Atlanta GCO is calling yet again! In sum, to all those named for the Blessed Virgin, whether its, Marie, Mariama, Mary, Marian, Yama, Yamu, Maryan, Mariam, we wish you all a Happy Feast!