My pinned tweet on Twitter conveys two things that are central about me: I love Catholicism and I have a healthy appreciation for my heritage, culture or whatever you name it. This means that I recognize the importance of my history, contributions, and figures while still understanding that my race isn’t an excessive thought of my existence. Simply, put, yes I know I’m black and I appreciate my history but I see my self with equal dignity, respect, and most importantly opportunity as anyone else.
As a Catholic, I’m just that, a Catholic. I place no divisions against other groups. I care for the entire Body of Christ, not just those that look like me.
In Christ, we’re all equal!
I’m reluctant to use the word “black Catholic” but simply put I am a Catholic of African descent (I think there’s a difference but I use them synonymously throughout this article).
However, as a Catholic of African descent, I do find myself sympathizing with a degree of issues or concerns of other black American Catholics, most importantly catechesis/evangelism.
To separate my culture that raised me from my religion is really easy, but why should I? For me, I see it as a necessary evangelistic tool to help empower my brothers and sisters from Protestantism or any faith tradition to see the extraordinary richness of the Catholic Church.
At the heart of my evangelist mantra is that truth matters. Everyone wants the truth. No one enjoys counterfeit. This is the burning question for “black missions” today.
Strangely, many have abandoned “black missions” and still embrace the antiquated 18th and 19th-century beliefs about black Catholics: let them be and only worry about them when needed to. Thankfully, many Saints, such as Katherine Drexel, broke this faulty logic and made great strides for black Americans in equality, education, higher learning, and catechesis.
Now that blacks have enjoyed integration for quite some time, perhaps maybe the evangelistic fervor has declined.
Whenever I see vocational announcements on social media from various dioceses or parish bulletins, the candidates look extraordinary amazing! We hope and pray that they fulfill the duty of a priest faithfully.
Yet, something is missing.
Hardly are there any black Americans entering seminary!
Sure are tons of Africans and Latino candidates entering, which is phenomenal, but where are the black seminarians?
Perhaps many of these African priests will become Josephites, a society of priests solely dedicated to black Americans, but that isn’t enough. Many have endorsed the idea that any blackface is good.
The Church in Africa is flourishing!
The Catholic Church across America could use the same catalyst!
Many blacks prefer to have the same race in matters of medicine so perhaps it would be helpful in religion. I don’t believe you need blacks to evangelize blacks. St. Francis Xavier and our Lord Jesus Christ have disproved this belief! What matters most is true love toward neighbor which is the impetus for loving souls.
Despite the prevailing assumption, having an abundance of black people enter religious life WILL NOT lead to a surge of blacks aspiring for vocations. Blacks are susceptible to thinking that more representation means greater upward mobility or somehow the small few will lead the majority. Time and time again this idea has been tested in our history and has proven it doesn’t really work.
Generally, I think black Catholics would love to see more vocations of their own if they knew exactly what it required and stopped pushing the “college is mandatory” after high school motto. Sure college is a gateway to a life of fleeing poverty, but black families in urban areas see it as the only option.
We, talking about us black Catholic folk, as a culture need to do more to ensure our children are exposed to the same diocesan retreats and vocation discernment opportunities as other parishes have to critically get the minds of men and women to consider religious life or the priesthood.
Moreover, bishops and priests need more engagement with black major cities/communities, especially heavily concentrated areas in the South, to evangelize blacks. If the gospel is to be preached throughout all nations, which includes cities with a Martin Luther King Jr. St too.
Lastly, lay people are the biggest vessels for missionary work. “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” isn’t an option but a mandate. Catholics of African descent like me and anyone who wants to ensure the Great Commission is carried out need not assume that Protestants are “Good without the Church” or neglect black communities due to deep-rooted bias and stereotypes. Black Americans deserve the fullness of the Christian faith because truth matters!
As the United States becomes increasingly multi-ethnic, I’m encouraged that Catholicism will face the question of how to incorporate more Catholics of African descent. This leads me to another topic that I think is vital in understanding black Catholics: liturgical diversity.
In order to increase black Catholics, should the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) allow black Catholics their own unique liturgy that mimics a Protestant service or should they have a reverent and holy liturgy?
Our soul lomga for the beauty and holy so I think option two is best but I’ll clarify more in part two of these posts about black Catholics in America.