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Honoring Black Catholics

Dear Friends and Parishioners;

Do you know who the following people are? St. Maurice (Roman soldier), Pierre Toussaint (hairdresser), St. Monica (famous mom), Bishop Moses Anderson, Fr. Charles Uncles, St. Josephine Bakhita, Sister Thea Bowman (Fransican), Fr. Norman DeKette, St. Katharine Drexel (from the City of Brotherly Love), Bishop James Healy, Fr. Patrick Healy, St. Augustine (famous son), St. Martin de Porres, and St. Peter Claver?

Go ahead…search their names on the web. What do they all have in common? They are black saints and other notable figures who have shaped their part of the world and, in many cases, the universal Church. From some who served as models of joyful witness to others who used their talent to erect institutions or who had the courage to fight against racial injustice, these women and men made our world better.

As we observe Black History Month, Catholics have an important story to tell within our own community as we listen to the biographies of other great thinkers, movers, and shakers who are part of that wider circle of society. Each sister and brother mentioned is a contributor to that wider circle and their stories need to be told. Why? I offer three reasons: First, because they shaped not only life within the Church, but many contributed to the larger society. Second, their stories need to be told because they remind us that, even within the membership of the Body of Christ, the call to justice is a constant task. And the third reason is that many of these figures can teach us about the necessity for perseverance in times of adversity, no matter the issues we are confronting.

Clearly, history does not simply exist for hindsight. It allows us to examine our present time. What have we learned and what do we need to continue learning? And who are the voices today who inspire and give joyful witness?

I’m glad that many of the names mentioned have their feast days peppered all over our liturgical calendar so we can recall their saintly witness throughout the entire year and not just within the confines of a single month.

Black History Month isn’t just for those who are persons of color. This month is for everyone as we examine their lives and as we examine our own. So, go ahead and look up the names mentioned above. While you’re at it, go to and check out parish resources for combatting racism. What can we contribute for stories to be told in future Februaries and throughout years to come?

In Jesus The Way, The Truth and The Life,

Fr. Gurnick