Category: Feature Stories

Art at St. Benedict the African reflects experience of black Catholics

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
June 20, 2018

In the 1970s, when Cardinal Joseph Bernardin asked Catholics in Englewood what they wanted the church in their neighborhood to look like, they said, “themselves.”

The historically German and Irish neighborhood had experienced white flight and the Catholic population plummeted as the area became predominantly African-American.

Eight parishes merged into two — St. Benedict the African-East and St. Benedict the African-West — and parishioners were looking for religious images that reflected their own experience, said parishioner Arthur Eiland, who moved to Englewood in the 1950s with his wife, Ann, and their family.

The pastor at St. Benedict the African-East had an eye for art, Eiland said, and that made all of the difference. The two parishes merged in 2016.
When planning the art for the new church, the parish initially reached out to Jan Spivey-Gilchrist, who created several paintings and a tapestry for the parish, the most striking of which are two large paintings of St. Benedict the African and Mary and the child Jesus. Both are modeled after real people, and the former includes actual homes in the neighborhood.

Spivey-Gilchrist, who is the daughter of a Baptist minister and not Catholic, had been connected to the Catholic community since she was a teenager living in Englewood. She was a counselor with the neighborhood youth core, which had a site at the now-closed St. Brendan, along with the Catholic Youth Organization.

She worked as a counselor in the after-school and summer programs as an art teacher. The pastor at the time even paid for her to take Saturday classes for high school students at the Art Institute of Chicago.

She has created religious art depicting African Americans ever since.

“The only dark person I saw in the big painting of the Last Supper was Judas,” she said. “Children aren’t stupid. As a child, nobody had to tell me that good didn’t include us but I had a father who did.”

Her father helped her and her siblings see their value and worth.

“My father always made us feel that we were innately good because we were in the image of God,” she said. “Heaven has to be a place that you can go. It can’t be a country club that’s private and doesn’t include you.”

The community made that experience come to life visually when a new St. Benedict the African-East Church opened in 1990 on the site of St. Bernard Church, which was torn down in 1967 after a snowstorm caused the roof to cave in. Prior to that, parishioners worshiped in the school gym.

“They said they wanted a church that reflected our culture, and it does,” said Tiombe Eiland, the daughter of Arthur and Ann. “It’s shaped like an African hut. There’s no other church like this.”

The architecture is so unique that the church is included in the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago, and it has received about 2,000 visitors each of the last two years.

When decorating the church, the parish commissioned stained glass windows that feature images of St. Benedict the African with the Chicago skyline in the background and, in the vestibule, ones featuring Rosa Parks and Sojourner Truth. Other art includes original Stations of the Cross; a hand-carved wooden statue of St. Martin de Porres in a setting also featuring the Chicago skyline; a large hand-woven tapestry that hangs behind the altar; and a crucifix in the tradition of the San Damiano cross that features historical figures key to the history of black Catholics in America, such as Father Augustus Tolton.

A focal point is a large baptismal font that holds 10,000 gallons of water and other African accents in the altar and woodwork.
It’s important to see yourself reflected in the worship space, Tiombe Eiland said.

“All of us grew up with images of Christ as a white person. I’d never seen a Catholic Church that reflected the ethnicity of black people,” Tiombe said. “You might occasionally see a statue of St. Martin de Porres, but I’d never seen a church that was dedicated to showing the culture of the people and the history of the people.”

As a teenager, Tiombe questioned why there were no images in Catholic churches that looked like her.

“I didn’t see the representation of myself and I thought it was deliberate that it wasn’t there. I told my parents I didn’t like it and was angry about it,” Tiombe said.

For a time she attended other Christian churches, but never renounced her Catholic faith. She returned to Mass when the new church opened.

“I do think it’s extremely important for children and young people to see images of themselves in Christ,” she said. “If Christ embraces everyone there should be images that reflect our people and that coloring of Christ. Even where Jesus grew up, you wouldn’t think he had blonde hair and blue eyes.”

The tradition of creating art at the parish continued after St. Benedict the African-East and West merged. To mark the occasion, the parish commissioned an original Mass written by the Kevin Johnson of Spellman College in Atlanta. The Spellman Glee Club performed portions of the Mass during a concert at on April 14.

“It’s something new, something different, something African, something African-American and something Catholic, something we can share with other parishes, something that can grow and something that helps us remember what God has done and is doing through him, with him and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,” said Father David Jones, pastor, of the Mass.

“The art of St. Benedict the African Parish, the Catholic Church in Englewood, teaches the faith, restores the faith, collects the faith and the faithful,” Jones said. “It shows that God is in Englewood. Always has been and always will be.”

Copyright © 2018 Chicago Catholic

A black Catholic experience at a royal wedding? Believe it

I never saw it coming — a British royal wedding that brought American black culture center stage before the world!

This happened May 19 as Prince Henry of Wales, known as Prince Harry, wedded former American actress Rachel Meghan Markle. Now she is the Duchess of Sussex, elevated to stratospheric fame.

It was surreal to me how their wedding ceremony reflected aspects dear to American black Catholics.

As director of the Office of Black Ministry for the Diocese of Brooklyn in the 1980s, I joined leaders nationwide to develop programs highlighting cultural contributions of blacks to the church that were indispensable to those desiring to minister more effectively in significantly black parishes.

Our workshops and conferences introduced outstanding lecturers, singers, clergy, religious and lay people as facilitators. We welcomed non-blacks to our functions that aimed to be spiritually uplifting for all.

Most, however, were content to remain where they already were. No amount of public relations could make them budge.

But this royal wedding turned the tide. It put in place a worldwide captive audience. The rich and poor alike of every nationality were not going to budge from their televisions, their coveted seats in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, or their positions along roadsides.

So without forewarning they got a taste. The spoon was down their throats and out before they could swallow! The experience others labored almost in vain to get across was at last delivered, and people will be talking about it for years to come.

You see, blacks in America have always been accustomed to ministers, regardless of their race, who talk to us, not at us with written scripts, and with passion.

I heard this intimacy in Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry’s powerful sermon on the power of love that touched upon the Old Testament, America’s painful legacy of slavery and civil rights struggles.

I nearly fell out of my bed when I heard the British gospel choir deliver the soul classic “Stand by Me” made popular by American singer Ben E. King. It had a flawless grace rarely associated with the ’60s hit.

Then there was Etta James’ version of “This Little Light of Mine” resounding as Prince Harry and Meghan exited the church. The lyrics were written as a gospel song for children in the 1920s and later became an anthem of the American civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s. The words convey a determination to be the best one can be, appropriately saluting the bride and all who struggle against adversities.

Like James, considered one of the greatest soul singers of all time, Meghan has had a tumultuous life. She is the daughter of a white father of Dutch-Irish origin and an African-American mother who married two years before Meghan was born in 1981 and divorced when she was 6. Meghan was raised a Protestant but attended an all-girls Catholic high school outside Los Angeles. She married and divorced a Jewish man, and in March was baptized as an Anglican by the archbishop of Canterbury.

“This Little Light of Mine” may be beloved by Protestants, but it is also considered by many American black Catholics to be our own national anthem as we share our gifts in the Catholic Church.

A close runner up is the African-American spiritual “There Is a Balm in Gilead,” another wedding selection that holds onto hope for God’s healing and liberation.


by Carole Norris Greene, Catholic News Service

Greene was an associate editor in CNS’ Special Projects department for nearly 22 years.

‘Racism is a pro-life issue’: The Catholic Church’s latest response to racism in America

The Catholic Church possesses clear doctrine that racism is a sin, even defining it as a broadly “pro-life” issue in a sweeping new document. It offers dozens of programs and opportunities to address it.

Yet the church’s leaders in Southwest Ohio admit to a frustrating disconnect with many of the faithful on the topic.

“We’re not getting the message across as clearly as we should,” said Cincinnati’s archbishop, the Most Rev. Dennis Schnurr.

“The dignity of the human person knows no color. We’re all made in the image and likeness of God. We all have our own talents, so we don’t all reflect God in the same way. Color is one trait, but it’s a trait that comes from God.”

The Catholic Church’s struggles with race and racism are similar to other Christian denominations here and across the country. But with 461,000 members and the nation’s sixth largest Catholic school system with about 43,000 students, the archdiocese is the most influential denomination in the area.

Read more of the article here.

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The Josephites’ 125th Anniversary Celebration

The Josephites’ 125th Anniversary Celebration

You are invited — family, friends, parishioners, and benefactors –to join the Priests and Brothersof St. Joseph’s Society of the Sacred Heart for a special Mass & banquet honoring our 125 years of evangelization in and with the African American Community in the United States, as an American Religious Society.
Dates: Friday, November 16
to Sunday, November 18
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
  • Friday Evening Welcoming
  • Saturday Morning Tour
  • Mass Celebration at The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Banquet and Silent Auction following the Mass

Learn more and mark your calendar!

The newest Josephite priest; Reverend Father Kingsley Ogbuji, SSJ Ordained Saturday 19th May 2018.

Congratulations Reverend Father Kingsley Ogbuji, SSJ

Ordination day of Fr. Kingsley with the ordaining bishop Ricard. Saturday 19th May 2018.

Runaway slave-turned-priest moves closer to beatification

Catholic News Agency

May 13, 2018

CHICAGO, Illinois – The first African American priest in the U.S. could become the country’s first African American saint as his cause took another step forward this week.

A document summarizing the life, virtue, and alleged miracles of Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton, known as the positio, was unanimously approved as historically correct by a committee of six Vatican officials this week, clearing the way for the priest’s cause for canonization to continue moving forward.

Bishop Joseph N. Perry, auxiliary bishop of Chicago and diocesan postulator for the Tolton cause, called the approval a “very positive sign going forward” and noted its significance for the African American Catholic Community.

“Father Tolton lived during a particularly tumultuous time in American history especially for race relations,” Perry said in a statement.

“He was a pioneer of his era for inclusiveness drawing both blacks and whites to his parish in Quincy. However, due to his race, he suffered discrimination and condemnation. The beatification and canonization of Father Tolton will signal a significant milestone in the history of black Catholicism in the United States.”

Born in Missouri on April 1, 1854, John Augustine Tolton fled slavery with his mother and two siblings in 1862 by crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois.

“John, boy, you’re free. Never forget the goodness of the Lord,” Tolton’s mother told him after the crossing, according to the website of St. Elizabeth’s Church in Chicago.

The young Tolton entered St. Peter’s Catholic School with the help of the school’s pastor, Father Peter McGirr. McGirr would later baptize him and instruct him for his first Holy Communion. Tolton was serving as an altar boy by the next summer.

The priest asked Tolton if he would like to become a priest, saying it would take 12 years of hard study. The excited boy then said they should go to church and pray for his success.

After graduating from high school and Quincy College, he began his ecclesiastical studies in Rome, because no American seminary would accept him on account of his race.

On April 24, 1886 he was ordained in Rome by Cardinal Lucido Maria Parocchi, who was then the vicar general of Rome. Newspapers throughout the U.S. carried the story.

Tolton was ordained for the southern Illinois Diocese of Quincy. Upon his return in July 1886, he was greeted at the train station “like a conquering hero,” the website of St. Elizabeth’s Parish says.

First Black Catholic Priest On His Way To Sainthood

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — The first black Catholic priest ordained for the United States, who served in Chicago for several years, is one step closer to being named a “saint.”

The story of Fr. Augustus Tolton has been officially examined and approved by a historical commission at the Vatican which Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry describes as a “significant hurdle” to get over on the road to sainthood.

Bishop Perry believes that, by virtue of the approval of that historcal record, the “positio,” Tolton eventually will reach sainthood.

It still will literally take at least one, possibly two miracles.

“A lot of that depends, of course, if we can find an intervention of God for someone for which medicine cannot explain, a turnaround in health. We sent two candidates for that over and we’re hoping that at least one of them might be approved,” Bishop Perry said.

A theological commission will now examine the way Fr. Tolton led his life and another panel will seek to confirm miracles said to have happened because of people praying to Fr. Tolton. Bishop Perry says two possible miracles have been presented.  The bishop did not want to identify the people to whom those possible miracles occurred.

“It all depends on that miracle,” he said.

Fr. Tolton started St. Monica Church on the South Side in 1889 and died in Chicago in 1897 at the age of 43.

Bishop Perry said the Archdiocese of Chicago sent to Rome in 2014, 2,000 pages worth of documents on the life of Fr. Tolton.

To get to the point they are today, the bishop said six historical consultants looked at all of that material issued as a “heavily referenced” official story of Fr. Tolton’s life.  The archdiocese was told March 8 that the historical commission had approved the records sent from Chicago.

Bishop Perry said that, what makes Fr. Tolton a good candidate for sainthood, in his view, is that, “a lot of his life has to do with perseverance in a rather difficult time socially, the division among the races and the condition of American blacks, freed slaves, escaped slaves, people of color.”

The bishop said Fr. Tolton “was something of a pioneer in things like integration, bringing people together in a Christian community for which society, the Church just were not ready for.”

Bishop Perry said that, right now, the Vatican is examining 35 or 36 candidates for sainthood from the United States.

Learn more about Fr. Tolton in the book from the Josephite Pastoral Center.

Archbishop Gregory: Catholics must stand against race and gender injustices

Fifty years since the U.S. civil rights movement, racism, sexism, discrimination based on sexual orientation and a host of other societal challenges “continue to hold us captive,” Archbishop Wilton Gregory told a group of U.S. priests gathered in Chicago on April 26.

The Atlanta archbishop, who is a former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that “many collective social injustices have not greatly improved over the past half-century and in some situations, a few may have even grown worse.”

Among the persistent ills that must be addressed, he said, is racism, which he described as “more subtle perhaps” today than in generations past but “no less degrading,” as well as “unabashed economic injustice from which certain classes can never fully escape.” He said criminal justice challenges remain, noting that U.S. prisons are “overflowing with inmates disproportionately representing people of color” and said body cameras worn by some police officers reveal occasional “violence against unarmed people much like that which others suffered in 1968.”


Martin Luther King’s legacy: faith, hope and sacrifice

Washington D.C., (CNA/EWTN News).- Fifty years after the death of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Catholics can still learn much from his legacy, said a leader in the largest predominantly black Catholic organization in the U.S.

“Dr. King’s legacy is one of faith and overcoming external forces working against you. His life, work, and ultimate sacrifice illustrate that we are called to work for the greater good,” Percy Marchand, associate director of the Knights of Peter Claver, told CNA April 3. “Dr. King’s legacy is a shining example of self-deprecation and personal sacrifice for one’s fellow man.”

“Dr. King would not want us to look upon this day in sadness,” Marchand continued. “He would want us to look at it with inspiration and rededication; with hope and commitment; with love and compassion – even for our enemies or those who don’t love us.”

The Knights of Peter Claver is a New Orleans-based Catholic fraternal order present in about 39 states and in South America. Its membership is significantly African-American but open to all practicing Catholics without regard to race or ethnicity. Many of its members played a role in the U.S. civil rights movement of the mid-20th century, in which King, a Baptist minister, was the most prominent leader.

On Wednesday, the order joined in observing the 50th anniversary of the 1968 assassination of King in Memphis, Tenn. Catholic Bishop of Memphis Martin D. Holley led celebrations of two Masses and a “Walk of Faith” from a Catholic church to the National Civil Rights Museum in time for a program and a moment of silence.

Knights of Peter Claver Supreme Knight James Ellis and executive director Grant Jones were among those in attendance at the Memphis events.

“Dr. King was just a young man when he accepted the challenge that would ultimately lead him to being one of the most influential and powerful leaders in our history,” Marchand told CNA. “He wasn’t a millionaire. He wasn’t famous. He hadn’t ‘made it.’ We must each look at our lives and ask what we are doing to lead, to serve, to positively impact the world in which we live.”

“Our Catholic faith is rooted in humanity and teaches us that we were created in the image and likeness of God,” he continued. “Therefore, we have no room for promotion or tolerance of racism.”

While many Catholics were involved in the civil rights movement from the start, “there were many more who were actively fighting against civil rights and still more who stood silent,” Marchand noted, stressing that Catholics must be “strong in our faith” and must live out Catholic social teaching.

“We must directly face the evils that tend to divide us or negatively impact others,” he said. “This is what our Teacher, Jesus Christ, illustrated through His own life.”

“Dr. King taught us to be principled and genuine in our faith and actions. He taught us not to lower ourselves or compromise our values. He taught us to have faith and be obedient to our Heavenly Father rather than dwell on worldly problems,” said Marchand, adding that King “allowed God to lead his path and ultimately, his message prevailed.”

Marchand suggested many Catholics needs to improve their efforts to truly understand diversity and inclusion.

“The Church must be bold and purpose-driven when it comes to standing up for what is right and just – for all people,” he said.

Historically, some in the Catholic Church failed to stand up against segregation and racism, Marchand said.

“While the Church has certainly become more diverse in the years since the civil rights movement, Catholics in the South who had known slavery and segregation as a way of life, looked at those systemic issues as natural.”

As Church leaders started to take a stronger stance in rejecting segregation, Catholics were called by their faith to “turn away from hate and divisiveness,” he said, and the Church allowed many Catholics to “come together and begin the process of healing.”

In Marchand’s view, race relations within the Church have significantly improved since King’s day.

“In culturally diverse parishes across the country social interactions in various ministries have provided opportunities for all Catholics to learn and understand each other better,” he said. “Divisions remain in the Church to this day. We still have what are considered ‘White parishes’ and ‘Black parishes’ but the differences tend to be more about worship style and comfort rather than exclusion and hate.”

The Knights of Peter Claver were founded in Mobile, Ala. in 1909 by four Josephite priests and three Catholic laymen to serve African-Americans and other racial minorities. Its founders were concerned the Catholic Church would lose black Catholics to fraternal and secular organizations, at a time when racism in some parts of the South sometimes curtailed participation in parish life and Catholic associations.

In their opposition to segregation, the Knights of Peter Claver worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Urban League. One of its leading officers, civil rights attorney A.P. Tureaud, worked with future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to help overturn segregation laws. The order’s New Orleans headquarters hosted early meetings that led to the launch of the civil rights movement.

The order has six divisions, including the Ladies of Peter Claver and two separate junior divisions for young men and young women.

A Knights of Peter Claver spokesman told CNA that many local units of the organization would hold their own commemorations of King.

50 Years After the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

An Interview with Deacon Timothy Tilghman on the Catholic Church and the Civil Rights Movement

Justin McClain, National Catholic Register

Wednesday, April 4, marks 50 years since Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, brutal assassination by James Earl Ray, who gunned him down in Memphis on April 4, 1968. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a statement for this occasion.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Deacon Timothy Tilghman, a married deacon of our native Archdiocese of Washington, ordained in 2010. I first met Deacon Tilghman through his and his wife Jennifer’s ministerial support of the Forestville Pregnancy Center, on whose board of directors I have served for four years. The Tilghmans are devoted parents and grandparents. The story of Deacon Tilghman’s family was recently covered by Chaz Muth of the Catholic News Service, and Deacon Tilghman’s testimony has appeared in various national Catholic newspapers, including the Archdiocese of Boston’s The Pilot and the Diocese of Green Bay’s The Compass, as it appears here: “Deacon’s Family Grieved After King Assassination, Witnessed Aftermath.” There are also two Catholic News Service videos: “Family of Deacon’s Brush with MLK” and “Faithful Reflection on King Assassination.”

Deacon Tilghman, the youngest of 13 children, was 15 years old when King was assassinated. The following is the transcript of our interview, in which Deacon Tilghman shared his insights on the intersection of the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. King, the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s in general, Catholicism and the black community, the ministry of the Josephites, and the Catholic faith as experienced during the tumultuous 1960s.

Please tell us about your background and experience of faith.

I was formed in the Church in a day when Church and neighborhood were synonymous. I could walk an hour in any direction from my house and folks knew me because they had worked with my parents or one of my 12 older siblings. The neighborhood was extensive. My father’s parents were among the founding families at Saint Cyprian Catholic Church in 1893; my mother’s parents were at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Anacostia in 1920. My parents moved from Incarnation Catholic Church, where I was baptized, to be among the founding families at Saint Luke’s in SE Washington, DC, in 1957. I was in the first graduating class at Saint Benedict the Moor Elementary School.

The common element in these parishes was the presence of the Josephites. I grew up with the Josephite charism, and patterned my life on the Josephite way. I was attracted to my wife Jennifer because we shared a common sense of faith; I later discovered that she grew up with the Josephites in New Orleans.

What was it like living as a young black Catholic man during the Civil Rights Era?

Everybody in the neighborhood was excited about Dr. King and what he did. I don’t know if I see that happening today. I had a friend, Tyrone Williams, who died a number of years ago. He would impersonate King speeches, and people enjoyed hearing those impersonations. There was a great sense of community, of wanting to be in King’s presence. My cousin Sahon said of him, “I was really drawn to judging people by the content of their character, instead of the color of their skin” (a direct reference to King’s iconic words).

King was exciting; he was electric. It was inspirational to see a man of color who was able to bring hundreds of thousands of people together. Down in Alabama, the Montgomery bus boycotts lasted around 400 days, and people united for a just cause. It forced people to recognize us blacks for who we are, people of great faith and power. There has not been a demonstration of power like the Montgomery bus boycotts since then.

What was the relationship like between Catholics and other Christians in general in the 1960s, independent of the Civil Rights Movement?

There was a lot of emphasis on what was “different.” There were even Christians who said that Catholics were not Christians. We didn’t understand each other’s faith traditions, and what we didn’t understand, we found “scary,” so we avoided it. Vatican II recognized the value in Christian traditions, such as the document on ecumenism [Unitatis Redintegratio]. The same is true for other faith traditions. The Church recognized this over 50 years ago, and recognized it quite clearly. If we were the Church that we read about on paper in Vatican II, our world would be a much better place. We need faith, because our faith will carry us through, no matter what the challenge of the day is.

Where were you when you heard that Rev. Dr. King was assassinated?

I was at home. My father said: “You’re not going out!” I watched a lot of things on TV, and smelled a lot of smoke in the neighborhood. Eventually, we got the chance to go out and into the city. My father was a union leader who knew a lot of people throughout the city, so he helped to deliver food and to be of service during a very difficult moment.

What are some things that the Church can learn from the experience of the King years?

The Church can remember its roots. Everything that Dr. King stood for – every principle that he applied in his life – when he talked about love and justice and community, you will see if you read through the 16 documents of Vatican II. We need to make sure to articulate what we believe, and act on that with conviction. We hold fast to everything that we see that is a representation of the absolute truth that Christ is alive and acting in the world, and is committed to transforming the world. “God is love” (1 John 4:8). King did what he did because he loved people. He saw people in the right way, and I say that he loved President Johnson. He didn’t give President Johnson a pass; King converted this “son of the south.” Dr. King didn’t act in the box. He talked about voting rights, about the Vietnam War. Our life is based on the great Commandments: to love God and neighbor. King lived the Great Commandments in a real, practical sense, and if we live that in a real, practical sense, things will be better.

Do you have any closing thoughts for readers about how we can honor King’s legacy, looking at the involvement of the Catholic Church in the Civil Rights Movement?

There are a whole lot of things that go along with that. I talk about that in my own book, Going to the Well to Build Community. In Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, he recognized her brokenness. He met her in her brokenness and looked for something of the image of the Father in her. The woman spoke of their common ancestor, Jacob, who gave us this well. When she asked him about the living water, it is a reminder to seek Jesus’ healing power.

We can find the image of Christ in everyone whom we encounter. The pope speaks about this encounter in the Joy of the Gospel: “The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this ‘art of accompaniment’ which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Exodus 3:5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates, and encourages growth in the Christian life” (Evangelii Gaudium, paragraph #169). I ask people to go back to their childhood. Everyone knew you and your family; we shared history and a values system. That values system was rooted in the Gospel, in faith. That grounded nature, that sense of anchor, is what made the Civil Rights Movement possible.

That is what Cardinal Wuerl calls out in his 2017 pastoral letter on racism [The Challenge of Racism Today], since we need to speak about each other as brothers and sisters. We recognize the faith of the African-American community. Through slavery, through Jim Crow, through segregation, people persevered because we were rooted in faith. To bring it directly to Dr. King, he was rooted in that faith tradition. There in Atlanta, he could not walk away from that faith. I can’t walk away from my faith of the Josephite Fathers and Brothers that I received at Saint Luke’s Church and at Saint Benedict the Moor School. It’s rooted in who I am.

This year is 50 years for various things: in New Orleans, we will celebrate 50 years of the permanent diaconate. The first men to serve as deacons in the U.S. came from Josephite parish communities. The Josephites were instrumental in showing how to live the faith as a married, ordained, Catholic man, not just for their parishioners, but for all who were called to the diaconate.

The point of being in the Church is being rooted and grounded in faith and sharing that faith. We didn’t know what would happen when Christ was crucified on that Friday afternoon. King’s death was a moment of darkness, and a great deal of light came from his life. We are the Easter people, and we celebrate the Resurrection with our brothers and sisters.