Category: Feature Stories

Josephites Receive Donation from SOAR

SOAR! Support Our Aging Religious Foundation, whose mission is to provide grants to assist Catholic religious congregations care for aging members, awarded a generous donation to the Josephites to renovate a common space for retired priests residing at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Washington, D.C.  Father Paul Oberg, SSJ, accepted the $25,000 check from SOAR! board member Pamela Brancaccio.

Remember your loved ones on All Souls Day

In Autumn, the leaves change color. Flowers, once vibrant and bright, lose their luster. The Fall season makes us think of things past.

This is the time of year when we visit cemeteries and remember loved ones. We gather to pray for those who have gone before us. And in our prayers, we pray that “perpetual light will shine on them.”

Praying for the dead is a natural part of our faith. Our church teaches that “purgatory exists, and that the souls detained there are helped by the suffrages of the faithful.” We also know that those who have died in the love of God can have their souls purified “by the suffrages of the faithful in this life, that is, by Masses, prayers, and almsgiving, and by the other offices of piety usually performed by the faithful.”

angelThe Josephites annually observe the month of November as the time we pray in a special way for all of our deceased members, friends, relatives and benefactors. The Josephites conduct a “Nine Days of Prayer for the Departed” novena, Oct. 24 – Nov. 2. You are invited to join with us and remember your loved ones. The novena prayers can be found here. Donations from this Novena will support the ministry of Josephites and the education and training of future priests and brothers who will continue the ministry. Click here to make a donation now.

The most effective of all prayers is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Josephites will remember your loved ones in the Masses we offer on All Souls Day, November 2. All Josephite seminarians, novices, priests and brothers will join our prayers with yours on their behalf.

Also, the Josephites offer throughout the entire month of November prayers for all the deceased loved ones you recommend to us. Make your prayer request here.

It is comforting to know that there is something that we can do for those we love. There is a way for us to remember them. We pray for them even as they watch over us and pray on our behalf before the Lord God. Thus, it is with confidence we pray, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. May perpetual light shine upon them.”

How Long, Lord?

The following statement has been released by Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, superior general of the Josephites.

How Long, Lord?

The African American Catholic community joins others in collective grief over the most recent attacks on the lives of brothers and sisters in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. While deeply saddened, we must not allow our grief to lull us into inaction or hopeless resignation. We must not allow ourselves to become desensitized to these events. Rather, our grief must propel us to confront these heinous acts and any other acts that seek to demean, disrespect, or destroy God’s children.

While these are the most recent attacks, they are far from the only acts. They are linked to a broader effort to divide and disparage humanity. We offer brief, but not exhaustive, suggestions for moving forward, acknowledging that inaction leaves the door open for continued hatred and future acts of violence.

1. Acknowledge and confront racist hate speech, white supremacy, and white nationalism wherever it is observed. As God’s children, we must confront measures that seek to diminish the humanity of anyone. Incendiary language, especially when spoken by leaders, must be confronted and denounced. This is especially core to us as Catholics. Each of us is made in the image and likeness of God; therefore, hate speech and promotion of one race over another enact hatred upon our God. Hate speech not only encourages and inspires others to inflict violence as we have witnessed, but it also informs the way legislation is passed and important decisions are made. It impacts the way we treat one another.

2. Advocate for legislation that will significantly reduce not only the number of semi-automatic weapons on our streets but also the number of handguns. This could include background checks, waiting periods, bans, support of gun buy-back programs, and the like. Semi-automatic weapons and weapons in the hands of young people in urban areas have deadly consequences.

3. Advocate for more resources to be spent in areas of economic development, urban community revitalization, mental health treatment, domestic violence prevention, and education.

4. Increase efforts to promote and lobby for comprehensive immigration reform. Seek out and join coalitions and organizations working to pass this legislation. We must end separation of families and the inhumane treatment of children on the border. We acknowledge that people have a right to make asylum claims and remain in the United States while these claims are being processed.

5. Invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit. We encourage prayer for the victims of violence and their families, as well as those persons who inflict violence. Pray for a conversion of hearts and for the energy and faith to confront racism and violence whenever it emerges.

We are not satisfied in believing that these cruel acts are caused by a single issue. The connection and relationship between all these issues must be addressed in unison.

We share these reflections as pastors, religious, clergy, and laity in urban, suburban, and rural communities from parishes from all over the United States. We offer these reflections based on that which we have seen and heard, based on shared solutions, shared realities, and a shared love for all of God’s children.

The new Leadership Team for the Josephite Priests & Brothers


Dear Friends of the Josephites:
At the quadrennial meeting of Josephites in June, leadership was elected for the Society of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart.

I am honored to have been selected as Superior General at the June meeting in Louisiana. The Josephites have been a steady presence throughout my life, which started in Louisiana. At this moment in our history, which traces back to 1871, I ask for your prayers as I begin this new responsibility and mission.

Soon I will be moving from Washington, where I had been serving as rector of St. Joseph Seminary, to the Josephite headquarters in Baltimore.

I am blessed to have an excellent group of collaborators in Josephite leadership. Father Thomas Frank, SSJ, was selected vicar general. He previously served four years as consultor general. Father Ray Bomberger, an experienced Josephite pastor who will continue to serve the St. Peter Claver parish in West Baltimore, was selected to serve as the new consultor general.

Area Directors were also elected. These four Josephites will be the primary point of contact with our parishes and ministries in their regions of the country. Those selected are: Father Cornelius, Ejiogu, Father Godwin Ani, Father Joseph Benjamin and Father Kenneth Keke.

I commend Father Michael Thompson for his leadership. In his four years as superior general, he took on significant issues that laid the groundwork for future mission opportunities in the African-American community. His energy and enthusiasm were a catalyst for change and set a course for growth.

Also, Father Roderick Coates commendably served four years as vicar general. He led the successful 125th anniversary celebration and provided support to our priests and parishes in many ways.

The new leadership team, with God’s help and your support, will continue to provide the men and means for the Josephite mission.

Bishop John H. Ricard, Superior General


Read more about the General Council member’s here.

Requiescat in Pace Father John Joseph McBrearty

Father John Joseph McBrearty

The Josephite parishioners of St. Therese of Lisieux parish in Gulfport, MS, were saddened by the sudden death of their pastor, Father John Joseph McBrearty, on the afternoon of December 1, 2018.  At 87, he was the oldest active Josephite pastor. He is survived by a dear Sister-in Law, Evelyn McBrearty, of Donegal, Ireland. Three loving nieces, Noleen and Carmel, of Donegal, Ireland, and Rosemary of Sussex, England. A host loving of cousins in New York City.

Father McBrearty was born in Kilkar County, Donegal, Ireland on March 23, 1931.  After being educated in Ireland, he migrated to Chicago, IL and worked there for four years.  In 1958, he felt a vocation call to study for the priesthood with the St. Joseph’s Society of the Sacred Heart, and entered Epiphany Apostolic College in Newburgh, New York. Upon completion of his studies, John continued through the novitiate year and then priestly formation at St. Joseph Seminary in Washington, DC. On June 1, 1968, he was ordained a Josephite priest by Patrick Cardinal O. Boyle in Holy Comforter/St. Cyprian Church in Washington.

Fr. John’s first two priestly years were spent as an associate pastor at St. Vincent DePaul parish in Washington, DC.  Six years after this assignment he served as associate pastor at Church of the Epiphany parish in New Orleans.  He returned in 1974 to minister for three years as associate in Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Washington, DC.

Fr. John McBrearty received his first assignment as pastor in 1977, to Immaculate Conception parish in Lebeau, LA. After a brief stay he was assigned to Houston, TX, to pastor Our Lady Star of the Sea Church.  Four years later he did a two-year pastorate at Prince of Peace parish in Mobile, AL, followed by a six-year pastoral ministry at St. Francis of Assisi Church at Breaux Bridge, LA. In 1986 he served for one year at St. Joseph parish in Wilmington, DE, as pastor.

During the next sixteen years, Fr. McBrearty served as pastor at Sacred Heart, Raywood, TX (3 years), St. Joseph, Alexandria, VA (5 years) and St. Augustine, New Roads, LA (8 years).  He recently completed a renovation of the 80-year-old parish church at Gulfport, Mississippi.

A Funeral Mass for Fr. McBrearty will be held at 6:00 pm at St. Therese of Lisieux Church on Thursday, December 6, 2018.  A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 12:00 noon on Friday, December 7, 2018 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.  Burial will follow in the parish cemetery.

May he be at peace in his 50th year as a priest.

Bishops overwhelmingly approve pastoral against racism

BALTIMORE (CNS) — The U.S. bishops overwhelmingly approved a pastoral letter against racism Nov. 14 during their fall general meeting at Baltimore.

The document, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love — A Pastoral Letter Against Racism,” passed 241-3 with one abstention. It required a two-thirds vote by all bishops, or 183 votes, for passage.

“Despite many promising strides made in our country, racism still infects our nation,” the pastoral letter says. “Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love,” it adds.

Bishops speaking on the pastoral gave clear consent to the letter’s message.

“This statement is very important and very timely,” said Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky. He appreciated that the letter took note of the racism suffered by African-Americans and Native Americans, “two pieces of our national history that we have not reconciled.”

“This will be a great, fruitful document for discussion,” said Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond, Virginia, in whose diocese the violence-laden “Unite the Right” rally was held last year. Bishop Knestout added the diocese has already conducted listening sessions on racism.

Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham, Alabama, what he called “ground zero for the civil rights movement,” said the pastoral’s message is needed, as the civil rights movement “began 60 years ago and we’re still working on achieving the goals in this document.”

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said he was grateful for the pastoral’s declaration that “an attack against the dignity of the human person is an attack the dignity of life itself.”

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix said the letter will be welcome among Native Americans, who populate 11 missions in the diocese, African-Americans in Arizona — “I think we were the last of the 50 states to be part of the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday,” he noted — and Hispanics, who make up 80 percent of all diocesan Catholics under age 20.

“This is very important for our people and our youth to know the history of racism,” he added.

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, La., center, attends morning prayer Nov. 13 at the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Bishop Shelton T. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, said an electronic copy of “Open Wide Our Hearts” would be posted “somewhat immediately,” with a print version available around Thanksgiving.

“Also, there will be resources available immediately” now that the pastoral letter has been approved, including Catholic school resources for kindergarten through 12th grade, added the bishop, who also is chair of the bishops’ Subcommittee on African American Affairs.

“‘Open Wide Our Hearts’ conveys the bishops’ grave concern about the rise of racist attitudes in society,” Bishop Fabre said Nov. 13, when the pastoral was put on the floor of the bishops’ meeting. It also “offers practical suggestions for individuals, families and communities,” he said.

“Every racist act — every such comment, every joke, every disparaging look as a reaction to the color of skin, ethnicity or place of origin — is a failure to acknowledge another person as a brother or sister, created in the image of God,” it adds.

“Racial profiling frequently targets Hispanics for selective immigration enforcement practices, and African-Americans, for suspected criminal activity. There is also the growing fear and harassment of persons from majority Muslim countries. Extreme nationalist ideologies are feeding the American public discourse with xenophobic rhetoric that instigates fear against foreigners, immigrants and refugees.”

“Personal sin is freely chosen,” a notion that would seem to include racism, said retired Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Nov. 13, but “social sin is collective blindness. There is sin as deed and sin as illness. It’s a pervasive illness that runs through a culture.” Bishop Fabre responded that the proposed letter refers to institutional and structural racism.

An amendment from Bishop Ramirez to include this language in the pastoral was accepted by the bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, which guided the document’s preparation.

Bishop Curtis J. Guillory of Beaumont, Texas, said Nov. 13 the pastoral “gives us a wonderful opportunity to educate, to convert,” adding that, given recent incidents, the document should give “consideration to our Jewish brothers and sisters.” Bishop Fabre replied that while anti-Semitism is mentioned in the document, future materials will focus on anti-Semitism.

A proposed amendment to the pastoral to include the Confederate battle flag in the pastoral alongside nooses and swastikas as symbols of hatred was rejected by the committee.

“Nooses and swastikas are widely recognized signs of hatred, the committee commented, but “while for many the Confederate flag is also a sign of hatred and segregation, some still claim it as a sign of heritage.”

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 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.