Over the weekend, most Catholic celebrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day. But did you know that November is also known as National Black Catholic History Month?
What is National Black Catholic History Month and what makes it different from Black History Month?
This month is about honoring the amazing black men and women who dedicated their lives to their Catholic faith.
This month also calls us, as Catholics, to remember the struggles that many black Catholics face and still face in and out of the church.
Discrimination and racism runs deep in the Catholic Church. Its our responsibility to address this racism and put a stop to a systemic problem that reinforces this mindset.
Contrary to popular belief, Christianity didn’t originate in Europe. Don’t let those paintings of the porcelain-skinned, blond hair, and blue-eyed Jesus and the saints fool you.
Black Catholics have made a huge impact on the faith and tradition of Christianity. Unfortunately, they’re often forgotten about or rejected from the church.
Black Catholics have even been ridiculed. Some have even gone as far as accusing African Christians and Catholics of practicing “witchcraft” or “black magic” while remaining dedicated to their faith.
The Catholic Church has celebrated Black Catholic History Month for the past 29 years when it was founded by the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States.
November is the perfect holiday to celebrate Black Catholic History Month since there are two days honoring two African Catholics: St. Augustine on Nov. 13, and St. Martin de Porres, whose feast day took place on Nov. 3.
There are also 31 other African saints recognized by the church, including St. Benedict the Moor, St. Josephine Bakhita, and Pope Victor I.
In fact, there were two other African popes (Gelasius I and Melchiades) who led the early Catholic Church through many trials and tribulations.
While there are no known African American saints today, there are six people who have currently received petitions for sainthood. They are:
- Mother Mary Lang, founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence
- Venerable Fr. Augustus Tolton
- Venerable Henriette Delille, founder of the Sister of the Holy Family
- Sr. Thea Bowman, a professor and member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration
- Julia Greeley
- Venerable Pierre Toussaint
This is a time that all of us Catholics should honor and remember these incredibly inspiring people who made their mark on the Catholic Church. We shouldn’t shut them out or silence them.
How can you help celebrate National Black Catholic History Month?
- The National Catholic Reporter is sharing the history of a different black saint for every day of the month.
- Read this timeline written by Father Cyprian Davis, O.S.B. on U.S. Catholic.
- If you live in the Milwaukee area, contact the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Office of Black Catholic Ministries at 414-769-3300 to learn more.
- Visit the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library in Denver, Colorado to view the special display in honor of Black Catholics throughout the month of November. There will also be a gallery featuring Black Catholics, past and present.
- Check out The Real Sister Act: Confronting the Uneasy History of Racial Segregation and Exclusion in U.S. Female Religious Life, a lecture on racism among African American Catholic women, at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia on Nov. 16.
- Read the history of Father Augustus Tolton on Voice and Viewpoint.
- Check out the African American events taking place in the month of November and throughout the remainder of the year on the USCCB website.
- Subscribe to the Be Good. Be True. blog to read inspiring stories about courageous black Catholic women all throughout the month of November. It’s our mission to make sure their stories are heard.
While most Catholics celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day all November long, we should also take the time to honor and remember our fellow black Catholics.
The Catholic Church is a lively and diverse community that includes people from all walks of life. It’s our duty as Catholics to allow them to tell their own story.
This can be powerful. Black people come from a lineage of storytellers, and they use those stories to shed light on the truth of humanity.
Storytelling for black Catholics is their way of saying, “I am here and I matter.”
No matter who you are or where you came from, your human spirit needs to be validated. The same goes for black Catholics and all of the black community.
We should listen to them, learn from them, and offer them a seat at the table.
Take the time to listen to or read one story from a black Catholic. Allow them to tell their story, in their own words. We are all witnesses to the truth.
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