During the last seven months as I’ve gone deeper into mysteries of the Catholic Church, I’ve found myself becoming more culturally aware of what it means to be a Catholic of African descent.
That’s not to say I’ve never been culturally aware either. From day one of my conversion to Catholicism, I’ve always felt connected to the African diaspora.
It’s easy too because of the vast global unity in the Nicene Creed. Most importantly, the Eucharist is the epitome of Christian unity, so me connecting to my cultural heritage is a piece of cake compared to being Protestant or some other pseudo-Christian branch.
Now, I find myself connecting with my African brothers and sisters in a true family.
In addition, I’ve discovered a whole new history. Black history is a part of American history, so it follows that Black Catholic history is a part of American Catholic history. Yet among the figures like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton or events like the election of John F. Kennedy, it’s often neglected.
As I’ve dived deeper in love with Jesus, I’ve discovered a history of Black Catholics in America that’s full of hurt, neglect, and glorious triumph.
I find a history rich with ancestors and forefathers that desired nothing more than to worship equally and have the same treatment as the majority class.
I find a history that shows amazing victories in the face of unfathomable discrimination and racism suffered by black holy men and women. Let’s not neglect the extraordinary acts of charity by white Americans who fought for equality alongside these black individuals in the Church too!
Yet, it’s 2020 and there are still changes to be made. Specifically, I want to address the priesthood and the advancement of Black priests.
At the beginning of Black History Month, I had a great conversation with a clerical member of the Church about two of my passions: vocations and Catholics of African descent.
Nearly two years of being Catholic, and I’ve seen far too many seminarian rosters without native Black American priests. Sure, you see Caribbean and African priests occasionally represented, but I’m referring to African-Americans.
So my sincere question for families, bishops, and pastors: where is the outreach and support for this underserved segment of the American Catholic Church? Are things like retreats, meet and greets, trips, supported and advocated by the diocese in these churches?
Sadly, many clergies will admit they aren’t.
Also, this topic on vocations is a cultural issue. Black families want first-generation college graduates. “Knowledge is power” is the saying. Perhaps, Black Catholics are so hell-bent on a college degree that they’re neglecting the possibility of vocations.
I’m focused on tangible courses of action that can happen to address the massive underserved segment of the American Church.
You’ve seen the bleak numbers for priests in America.
And if we’re honest, not too many missionaries are lining up to visit urban areas/inner cities to evangelize.
Sure, Catholic Charities is present to provide services but getting new converts is how we grow the Church and eventually expose families to vocations.
Here are three things need I think need to happen:
1) dioceses need to critically consider how they’re reaching Black parishes for vocations.
Maybe Vocation Directors could reach out to parishes with a strong African-American presence and provide resources or guidance on what vocation awareness could look like.
2) A paradigm shift for Black Americans. Get out of the “pushing college” idea and expose children to vocations as an option
3) Evangelism to the black community is a way to get new converts to the Church.
This isn’t my first time addressing the topic of Black Catholics in America, but continue to look out for more thoughts on this much-needed area of the American Church.
There was a time, not too many generations ago, when Black Catholic men were excluded from seminaries.
Now, we can attend them and aren’t taking advantage of equal opportunity that holy Black Catholic men and women fought for.
I’m committed to making my ministry dedicated to evangelizing Black communities and showing the beauty and truth of Catholicism. Also, I’d love to assist with vocational awareness in parishes.
There’s plenty to be done yet there are few laborers for this abundant harvest!
Pray for me and my pursuits!
Follow me: @Menny_Thoughts
My podcast: @Priestly_Passion