As we begin Holy Week, we will reflect on the positive impact of Black Catholics in the United States whose stories might be unfamiliar. The first article by Efran Menny, BSW, relates the history of Black Catholic nuns and their outstanding charity and social work to help African Americans in the 19th century. Despite racism within their hometown churches and towns, they began their own communities in order to reach out and help people in great need in various areas in the U.S. These holy women are Servant of God Mary Lange and her Oblate Sisters of Providence, Venerable Henriette DeLille with her Sisters of the Holy Family, and Mother Mathilda Beasley, OSF alongside her Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis.
Did you know that there are no Black Catholic Saints from the United States? The second article is about a movement to advance the canonization causes for six Black Catholics. Two of these people are Servant of God Mary Lange and Venerable Henriette DeLille who are mentioned in the article above. The others are Servant of God Julia Greeley, Servant of God Thea Bowman, Venerable Pierre Toussaint and Venerable Augustus Tolton.
It is important to learn about these holy people because "these men and women show us the way forward." (Statement by Most Reverend Roy E. Campbell Jr., auxiliary bishop of Washington D.C. in "Black Catholics on the Road to Sainthood," Edited by Michael R. Heinlein). These Black Catholics showed love, compassion, and forgiveness to all people despite the discrimination and hatred they were experiencing in their own lives. Michael R. Heinlein states that the way to end racism and violence is through "Holiness" and we find in these Black Catholics "a path forward for a productive response to hatred and violence" because of their holiness. If anyone is interested in finding out more about the Black Catholics who have causes for canonization, the book "Black Catholics on the Road to Sainthood" is highly recommended.
Prayer for Holy Week:
"Oh Lord, help us to be attentive to your commands.
Help us to walk in unity.
Help us to celebrate who we are and whose we are.
Help us to overcome selfishness, anger and violence in our hearts, in our homes, in our Church, in our world.
Help us to knock down, pull down, shout down, the walls of racism, sexism, classism, materialism, and militarism that divide and separate us.
Help us to live as your united people, proclaiming with one voice, our faith, our hope, our love, our joy. Amen"
~Prayer written by Servant of God Thea Bowman: Songs of My People