Category: Josephite News

30 Days Prayer to St. Joseph

StainedGlass-highresFebruary 18 – March 19

Saint Joseph is always there when we need help! We know that’s true. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, was chosen by God to be the protector of the Holy Family. He is our protector, too.

For centuries, Christians have known that they can confide in Joseph, like a father, and call on him for support in times of trouble.

We Josephites have a special devotion to St. Joseph. He is our patron. Saint Joseph has been our beacon for more than 125 years of ministry in the African-American community here in the United States. With your assistance and support, Josephites serve in parishes, schools and special ministries in the African-American communities of our country every day.

The Feast of Saint Joseph, March 19, is a special celebration for Josephites. It is our sacred custom to prepare for this feast by invoking Saint Joseph for 30 days for our special intentions and those of our friends and benefactors. Why 30 days? These 30 days of prayer honor the 30 years that Joseph spent with Jesus and Mary on earth. It is in the 30-day prayer that we petition St. Joseph, by his sufferings, sorrows and joys, to hear our requests and carry them to God’s throne on high.

Join your petitions with ours and your prayers with all Josephites as we prepare for Saint Joseph feast day.

Does the Thirty Day Prayer novena have an impact? We hear testimony from many people all across the country about how Saint Joseph interceded for them.

As part of Saint Joseph’s family here on earth, Josephites ask him every day to “obtain for all those who have asked our prayers everything that is useful to them in the plan of God.” We look forward to having you join us in these 30-days of prayer.

Join us in the 30 Days Prayer or Donate to the Josephites

BISHOP LEONARD J. OLIVIER, SVD

Bishop_olivier1923-2014

By Fr. Edward J. Mullowney, SSJ

Bishop Leonard Olivier died November 19, 2014, at the age of ninety-one. He was a priest for sixty-three years and a bishop for the last twenty-five of those years.

The Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, said, “I always found Bishop Olivier to be pastorally sensitive and filled with love for the people he served.” It is a beautiful summation of Bishop Olivier’s priestly life. After you met him, it didn’t take long to realize what the Cardinal said was true.

In 1959, I was transferred from a small parish in Boston to Corpus Christi p.arish in New Orleans, a church community with a pastor and four assistants. It was there that I met Father Olivier. He was staying at the parish working on his thesis for an advanced degree, but he was willing to help us in any way-saying Mass, conducting funerals, weddings, novena services and anything else that was needed. He introduced me to so many people. He  seemed to know every one and they knew him. He showed by his example how to live our priesthood and enjoy every moment.

During Bishop Olivier’s sixty-three years as a priest his talents and abilities were recognized and called upon. He served as teacher, seminary rector and dean of studies, a pastor in Lafayette, and vicar for Black Catholics in that diocese. He served on the board of Covenant House, and the National Black Catholic Congress. As bishop, was episcopal moderator of the Pan-African Catholic Clergy Conference. He served on the U.S.Catholic Bishops’ Conference Committee on Vocations as well as for Priestly Life and Ministry.

We became longtime friends. There were many good stories and times we shared together. I’ll tell just one, the one that brought out a big smile and laugh. He invited me to give a weekend retreat at the Bay St Louis seminary. During the retreat, while he was showing me around, we entered this big room where on the walls were the portraits and coats of arms of the bishops of his Society of the Divine Word. I noticed the portrait of Bishop Joseph Olivier Bowers who had been ordained at Bay St. Louis by Cardinal Spellman of New York. On Bishop Bowers’ coat of arms were unexplained images of three ants. I said, “Leonard, you’ll be a bishop some day. Do me a favor and keep the bugs off your coat of arms.” More than twenty years later, the first time I met him as a bishop, and before I could say anything, he laughed and said, “No bugs on the shield. ” He remebered and I shall always remember him as a great friend, a great priest and bishop. May he rest in peace.

Black Catholics felt the need to be at March on Washington anniversary

March on Washington August 1963
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The presence of Catholic priests and religious was unmistakable at the first March on Washington in 1963; their clerical collars and full habits with wimples stood out even among the black-and-white images of the day.

Clergy and religious weren’t as visible at the first of two major anniversary events in 2013, but African American Catholics were in attendance, just as they were a half-century earlier. There was, they said in interviews with Catholic News Service, no place else they could imagine being on Aug. 24.

“I never thought about not being here,” declared Donna Pasteur, a member of St. Augustine Parish in Washington, as she sat with a delegation from her parish on the south side of the Reflecting Pool in shade on a sunny summer day and close to a speaker tower.

Pasteur said she had also been at 25th- and 40th-anniversary commemorations of the March on Washington.

The issues that brought about the first march, in her view, stubbornly remain today.

“I see the inequality in jobs and justice,” Pasteur told CNS. “We just have too many people out of work. We don’t have that many good jobs.”

Baltimore Catholics board buses at St. Peter Claver ChurchEven so, the situation is improving compared to two generations ago, she said. “You pray in different ways. You pray with your own presence, too for jobs and justice,” repeating the theme of the 1963 march.

Pasteur’s friend — and St. Augustine School classmate — Shirley Satterwhite, started making plans to come to the Aug. 24 march once she returned from a funeral in South Carolina.

“I sum it up as justice,” Satterwhite said. “I see progress in the schools, the public schools. I see some changes in the police force,” she added, with Pasteur interjecting, “Some breakthroughs.” Then Satterwhite continued, “Better control of crime.”

“We’ve got a president in the White House who gives voice to all Americans. It gives us a chance to show solidarity,” Pasteur continued. Satterwhite lauded President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president, for his efforts at ending war. “He’s bringing some veterans home,” she said, “and taken better care of the veterans.”

Archbishop Shehan of Baltimore at Lincoln MemorialCharlene Howard, a member of Washington’s St. Teresa of Avila Parish, was one of group of five at the march, including her son, her godson, and a teenage friend.

A teacher and counselor at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, Howard said she would be able to apply the principles behind the march in her lessons.

Howard said her mind was made up to go to the Aug. 24 march when she couldn’t attend any rallies in support of Trayvon Martin, the black Florida teen who was shot to death in Sanford, Fla., last year, and whose killer was acquitted in July by a jury that was given instructions based on Florida’s “stand your ground” law.

She recalled her father’s role 50 years ago.

“My dad was here for the first march. He was a marshal, helping keep order,” Howard said. “I feel a responsibility to be here because of the issues that were behind the march. Those issues are the same today.”

Howard said she liked “that I can be a part of history. How many chances do you have to be part of history? I wouldn’t want to say I was too busy to go. That wouldn’t have set a good example for my son.”
Marchers at the March on Washington
 

By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service

Franciscan leader in Black Catholic ministry named auxiliary bishop

Father_Fernand_Cheri_January_12_2015_Credit_Frank_Methe_Jr_slash_Clarion_HaroldBy Catholic News Service

Pope Francis named Franciscan Father Fernand “Ferd” Cheri III, a New Orleans native who currently is director of campus ministry at Quincy University in Illinois as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Bishop-designate Cheri, 63, has a background that includes extensive roles in black Catholic liturgy, music and spirituality, in addition to having served on the Franciscans’ provincial council and as their director of friar life.

He also is a board member of the National Black Catholic Congress and has been involved in activities including the NBCC gatherings, the U.S. bishops’ subcommittee on Black Catholic worship and the National Joint Conference of Black Religious Planning Committee.

He originally was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of New Orleans May 20, 1978. He studied at Notre Dame University and at the Institute for Black Catholic Ministry at Xavier University, both in New Orleans.

During a news conference in New Orleans after his appointment was announced, Bishop-designate Cheri said he never truly left his hometown and was surprised but thrilled that Pope Francis had appointed him as auxiliary bishop in the city where most of his family still lives. He said he is pleased that he will be working alongside Archbishop Gregory V. Aymond.

“I’d like to say first of all thank you to Pope Francis for appointing me to this position,” he said.

“It was a total surprise, but it was a wonderful moment to just be told that I was appointed auxiliary bishop,” added Bishop-designate Cheri. “I also want to thank Greg for accepting me in this position as well. I look forward to just working with the people of New Orleans again. I never left New Orleans. It’s always a part of me. Wherever I go, I bring New Orleans. It’s going to be great to be back in the city.”

Bishop-designate Cheri will be ordained bishop at a Mass March 23 at 2 p.m. at St. Louis Cathedral.

“He is very gifted in music and preaching and liturgy,” Archbishop Aymond said. “This is also a very significant moment, I think, for us as New Orleans (Catholics) – another hometown boy joining us again. But also a great gift from the African-American community to the church and to the archdiocese.”

As a diocesan priest for four years at four parishes in New Orleans and Marrero, Louisiana, Bishop-designate Cheri was involved in ministry in the black Catholic community. It was at that time that he began discernment in becoming a Franciscan.

“A lot of my support at that time was from the religious communities that were primarily staffing parishes in the black community of New Orleans,” he said.

“I got used to that. I said, ‘Well, if I’m getting support from them, I might as well be a religious.’ Being a diocesan priest for me was very lonely. I grew up with a family and bouncing things off of other people. I needed that support. I received a lot of that from the religious communities of New Orleans.”

He entered the novitiate for the Order of Friars Minor, in the Sacred Heart Province, based in St. Louis in 1992 and made his solemn profession as a Franciscan two years later. Since then he has served as a chaplain at Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago and as pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

He also served as a choir director and guidance counselor at Althoff Catholic High in Belleville, Ill., while part of a contingent that launched St. Benedict the Black Friary in East St. Louis, an outreach to the poor, African-American community.

Prior to beginning his position at Quincy University in 2011, he was director of campus ministry at Xavier University. In addition to his post at Quincy, he is vicar of Holy Cross Friary, located on the campus.

Bishop-designate Cheri said he organized teams of students from Quincy University to provide annual cleanup and repairs in New Orleans. Last year, 50 students made the mission trip.

Prior to beginning his position at Quincy University in 2011, he was director of campus ministry at Xavier University in New Orleans. In addition to his post at Quincy, he is vicar of Holy Cross Friary, located on the campus.

According to his biography on the NBCC website, he created youth gospel choirs in several places, began the Black Saints Celebrations for the Archdiocese of New Orleans and is convener and facilitator of Go Down Moses Retreats for African American Catholic Young Men.

The New Orleans Archdiocese has had no auxiliary bishops since Bishop Shelton J. Fabre was named in 2013 to become bishop of Houma-Thibodaux. Auxiliary Bishop Dominic Carmon retired in 2006.

Contributing to this story was Peter Finney Jr. in New Orleans.

Support Catholic religious in their mission, ministries, pope says

Year of Consecrated LIfeBy Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – During the Year of Consecrated Life, all Catholics are called to thank God for the gifts members of religious orders have given the church and the world, to join them in prayer and find practical ways to support them and their ministries, Pope Francis said.

“Let them know the affection and the warmth which the entire Christian people feels for them,” the pope said in a letter issued for the special year, which opened Nov. 30 and will close Feb. 2, 2016, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

The Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court, issued a note Nov. 28 specifying that both lay and consecrated people can receive an indulgence for participating in events related to the Year of Consecrated Life, going to confession, receiving the Eucharist and offering prayers for the intentions of the pope.

In his letter, Pope Francis also offered greetings to Orthodox communities of monks and nuns, and to members of Protestant religious orders, who also take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and are “expressions of fraternal communion and service.” Dialogue between Catholic religious and those of other traditions “can prove helpful for the greater journey toward the unity of all the churches,” he said.

The bulk of the pope’s letter and video messages he sent for a Nov. 29 prayer vigil in Rome and the year’s opening Mass the next day in St. Peter’s Basilica were addressed specifically to the world’s more than 900,000 Catholic religious priests, brothers, sisters and consecrated virgins.

“Leave your nests and go out to the peripheries,” he told those at the vigil in the Basilica of St. Mary Major. “Live on the frontiers” where people are waiting to hear and understand the Gospel.

“Wake up the world, enlightening it with your prophetic and countercultural witness,” he said in the message to those at Mass in St. Peter’s the next morning.

“Being joyful,” he said in the message, “being courageous” and “being men and women of communion” are the common traits of the founders of religious orders and are the key to their future.

The pope’s letter for the year explained that while he was writing as pope, he was also writing as a Jesuit, “a brother who, like yourselves, is consecrated to the Lord.”

Knowing the gifts and challenges of religious life from the inside, Pope Francis urged religious to “look to the past with gratitude,” rediscovering the way their predecessors read “the signs of the times” and responded with creativity. However, it also involves recognizing the difficulties and inconsistencies resulting from human weakness and learning from them.

Religious are called “to live the present with passion” and “embrace the future with hope,” he said, knowing that the Holy Spirit continues to inspire new responses to the needs of the church and the world and to give religious the strength to be faithful servants of God.

Within communities, within dioceses and within the church, he said, religious are called to be “experts in communion,” a call that is prophetic in the modern world. “In a polarized society where different cultures experience difficulty in living alongside one another and where the powerless encounter oppression, where inequality abounds, we are called to offer a concrete model of community which, by acknowledging the dignity of each person and sharing our respective gifts, makes it possible to live and brothers and sisters.”

“Don’t be closed in on yourselves,” he said, “don’t be stifled by petty squabbles, don’t remain a hostage to your own problems.”

A person’s attitude reflects what is in his or her heart, the pope said, and for consecrated people that means “to know and show that God is able to fill our hearts to the brim with happiness.”

“None of us,” he said, “should be dour, discontented and dissatisfied, for a ‘gloomy disciple is a disciple of gloom.’ ”

Countering the decline in the number of people entering religious life in the West will not be the “result of brilliant vocations programs,” the pope said, but of meeting young people who are attracted by the joy they see in religious men and women.

The special mission of consecrated people in the church has not ended, he told them. “A whole world awaits us: men and women who have lost all hope, families in difficulty, abandoned children, young people without a future, the elderly, sick and abandoned, those who are rich in the world’s goods but impoverished within, men and women looking for a purpose in life, thirsting for the divine.”

2014: A Year in Review

2014 was a year of blessings. The Josephites would like to thank each and every one of you for making 2014 such a memorable year. We thank you for your support throughout the year and look forward to the many more blessings to come in 2015.

Catholics should ‘rekindle’ commitment to end racism, bishop says

BY CAROL ZIMMERMANN

The scenes of chaos and violence in Ferguson, Missouri, Nov. 24 following the grand jury’s decision not to indict the white police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an African-American teenager, reveal deeper issues going on in the country, said one of the country’s black Catholic bishops.

“The racial divide that exists between blacks and whites is not addressed adequately except when tragedies such as this happen,” said retired Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, who is president of the National Black Catholic Congress.

The smashed windows, lootings, car and building fires when the grand jury’s decision was announced were “part of a cycle of violence that is going to continue spiraling,” he added.

The reactions also went against the Brown family’s wishes to keep “protests peaceful.”

In a statement, the family urged the public to channel their “frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”

When asked what can be done to work toward this “positive change,” particularly by the Catholic community, the bishop said Catholics should return to the passion many of them showed during the civil rights movement.

“We need to rekindle that commitment and not be so silent and only react when there is a great tragedy that forces us to,” he said Nov. 25 from St. Joseph’s Seminary in Washington where he is rector for the Josephites, the order founded to serve newly freed slaves in the United States and now ministers in African-American communities.

The bishop noted that many church leaders were at the forefront in integrating schools and fighting against racial discrimination in the 1950s and ’60s.

“The church took an active role” back then, he noted and added that church leaders in St. Louis have made efforts but overall the church as a whole has not been as “visibly active.”

Bishop Ricard, who grew up in the segregated South in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and was a seminarian in Washington when the Civil Rights Act passed, does not have a simple reason for why the church has not been as outspoken in recent years but he thinks complacency is partly to blame.

“People throw up their hands in air when there aren’t clear solutions or they are distracted by other things going on,” he told Catholic News Service.

What he would like to see happen in the wake of the Ferguson decision and reaction is for parishes or dioceses to convene to discuss racism.

“We have structures in place,” he said, noting that it also takes courage and the “will and leadership to determine we’re going to take this step.”

Because as he sees it, these types of violent situations and reactions will continue “and if anything, get worse” if nothing is done.

He described the situation in Ferguson as a “very tragic event to see two lives, two families damaged.”

He also said it “raises questions on both sides on the use of violence and police reaction,” adding that in this country there seems to be a “consistent pattern of excessive force used against African-American men.”

In an interview with CNS this summer, he said that “racism is still a part of the fabric of our environment – of the air we breathe. It’s still part of the DNA of most Americans.”

He said it is so embedded in society that “no one group is going to solve it” and it will take “a lot of courage, forethought, imagination to address this well.”

St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson greets parishioners at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Church in Ferguson, Mo., Nov. 24 following a prayer service. The service was held the same evening as violence began to erupt following the announcement that a St. Louis County grand jury would not indict a Ferguson police officer in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown. (CNS/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson greets parishioners at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Church in Ferguson, Mo., Nov. 24 following a prayer service. The service was held the same evening as violence began to erupt following the announcement that a St. Louis County grand jury would not indict a Ferguson police officer in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown. (CNS/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

 

Bible aims to make God’s word more accessible to African-American youth

BY ALLANA HAYNES

A new youth Bible set to hit bookstores this January contains illustrations depicting Jesus as an African-American.

The African American Youth Bible, modeled after the Catholic Youth Bible contains commentaries, footnotes and artwork geared toward educating young African-Americans about Scripture.

The Bible was developed by retired Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, who is president of the National Black Catholic Congress, and St. Mary’s Press. It has been in the works for over four years.

“We wanted to have something that would appeal to our youth and we wanted to make it as relevant as possible to their lives,” said Bishop Ricard in a phone interview with Catholic News Service. “After many years of exploring, we thought that this would be an effective way of doing it.”

The Bible includes themes that would be relevant to African-American youth – including both African-American history as well as the history of the Catholic Church.

“The Bible was subject to a lot of research,” said Bishop Ricard. “We did research on African-American history, we looked for documents and explored the church fathers and mothers and the extensive study of the Bible of those days, relying on the experience of African-American youth ministers.”

What makes this Bible different from other versions, are the specific themes that it deals with.

“In the Bible, it speaks of slavery and it seeks to explain more fully what it means to the history of African-Americans in the United States,” said Bishop Ricard, who is rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary, the Washington seminary of his order, the Josephites.

To develop the Bible, a team of more than 200 authors as well as an editorial board and illustrators were involved. St. Mary’s Press, based in Winona, Minnesota, is a leading Catholic publisher of Bibles and religion curricula for Catholic teens.

Valerie Washington, executive director of the Baltimore-based National Black Catholic Congress, believes that the Bible will speak to the lives of black youth and will make the word of God more accessible to them.

“We complain that many youths aren’t in the church” and that their involvement “is not growing as much as we would like it to grow,” she told CNS. “We want them to evangelize to their peers and we want to get the youth we have now to be more inclusive. We hope that the Bible will help them evangelize and grow in their faith.”

The Bible is targeted toward black youth between the ages of 14 and 22, but can be used by anyone.

“The Bible will help any group,” said Washington. “It will help bring people closer Jesus and allow them to learn about who he was. It will help them endure life’s challenges and provide sources of conformation and healing and will help enrich their lives.”

The Bible aims to give black youth a greater appreciation for sacred Scripture and give them a better understanding of the Lord’s presence.

“We teach about Christ and we teach about God and we hope the articles that we write about God will help explain those things better,” said Washington. “We hope that they will understand how important the Bible is and how much more important it is than any other book that they will read in their entire life.”

 

This illustration is based on Chapter 4 of the Book of Deuteronomy in which Moses exhorts the children of Israel to keep the Ten Commandments and teach them to their children. The image is included in a new African American Youth Bible that should hit bookstores in January. (CNS illustration/courtesy St. Mary's Press)

This illustration is based on Chapter 4 of the Book of Deuteronomy in which Moses exhorts the children of Israel to keep the Ten Commandments and teach them to their children. The image is included in a new African American Youth Bible that should hit bookstores in January. (CNS illustration/courtesy St. Mary’s Press)

Healing Racial Division

HowzeBY TERRY DICKSON

The harsh realities of racial segregation were spelled out for Bishop Joseph Lawson Howze at an early age. Bishop Howze, 91, a native of Daphne, Alabama, was appointed the first bishop of Biloxi in 1977. He was the first black Catholic bishop in the 20th century to head a diocese, and at the time of his retirement in 2001, he was the top-ranking active black Catholic bishop in the U.S.

“I remember that there was very strong segregation in Alabama, especially,” he said. “We went to public schools and the schools for the black kids were closed in March so they could work in the potato fields. The other schools were not closed. So that shows the difference between the races during that particular time. Segregation was evident.”

However, Bishop Howze said his family was fortunate in that they were never the targets of serious racial backlash.

A cradle Baptist, Bishop Howze attended Most Pure Heart of Mary School in Mobile, Alabama, as a child, and became a Catholic at age 25 under the instruction of Josephite Father Benjamin Horton.

Father Horton soon transferred and was replaced by Josephite Father Vincent Warren. “After my baptism, I used to travel with him to his mission churches. It was he who really inspired me to become a priest.”

Bishop Howze was admitted to Christ the King Seminary at St. Bonaventure in New York and was the lone black seminarian. In 1959, he received his doctor of divinity degree and was ordained for the Diocese of Raleigh.

Bishop Howze served in several black parishes throughout North Carolina before being appointed pastor of the Basilica of St. Lawrence, a predominantly white parish in Asheville, in 1968. “There was a period of adjustment,” he recalled, “but I got to know everybody and was loved by the people.”

However, he wasn’t immune to the indignity of racial segregation.

He described a meeting the Raleigh bishop had with priests at a Holiday Inn and the management of the hotel “made it known that they weren’t going to serve me at the dinner. So, the bishop and the entire group of priests left.’’

In 1972, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Natchez-Jackson, MS. Bishop Howze’s appointment was a watershed moment for African- American Catholics. Then-  Bishop Joseph Brunini of Natchez-Jackson “was looking for a black bishop to come here,” he recalled. “That’s the reason why I was named here.”

As far as the changes that came about as result of the implementation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Bishop Howze found them to be “drastically wonderful.”

“The change in Mississippi was phenomenal really, and I think the reason was because the direct relationship between whites and blacks in the South was good,”

Bishop Howze said. “I lived in a community in Mobile growing up with both whites and blacks living in the community. But racial segregation was still there.

“After we played, we couldn’t go to school together and we couldn’t go to church together, but we were friends. So I think that, after integration, it was easier for those whites who wanted to integrate.”

Dickson is editor of the Gulf Pine Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Biloxi, MS.

Pastoring in Black Parishes

Josephite Pastoral Center hosts national conference

BY KELSEY BRANNON

The Josephite Pastoral Center hosted lead- ers of African-American parishes during the three-day annual conference held at St. Joseph Seminary in Washington, D.C., Nov. 11-13.

With 35 parish leaders in attendance, “Pastoring in Black Parishes” provided updated information and insights about the unique needs of serving in African-Ameri- can parishes. Called a “Clergy Enrichment Conference,”  the  workshops  and  speakers aimed at helping to “develop pastoral skills necessary to effectively serve in the African- American community.”

Father Freddy Washington, CSSp, pastor of St. Mark Church in Harlem, New York, and Father Maurice Nutt, CSSR, a member of the Redemptorist mission team, were presenters. Father William Norvel, superior general of the Josephites and Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, also addressed the conference.

The Josephite parish, Our Mother of Mercy in Houston, TX, celebrated its 85th year of establishment. The parishioners formed a committee that planned and prepared a celebration for the anniversary. Georgia Provost was the chair of the committee.

Festivities began Nov. 7 with a Gospel concert. Various choirs from around the area participated in making it a community-inclusive event. The following day, various members of the parish were honored including the longest married couple and the oldest and youngest parishioners.

Shemery Tolliver was one of the parishioners honored. He regularly volunteers as an altar server, in addition to cleaning up and keeping the property in order.

The committee also planned a street festival on the Sunday before the anniversary Mass. The festival consisted of music, entertainment and food.

The goal was for fellowship among the congregation and to celebrate the parish history.

In the early 20th century, there wasn’t a Catholic church located in the Fifth Ward, which is comprised mostly of African Americans. In 1927, the Mississippi river flooded Louisiana causing major crop damage. As a result, residents of that area – who were predominately African Americans and Creoles – decided to move west for a chance at a better life. The majority of this community resettled in Houston in the Fifth Ward area.

They came with backgrounds in the building trades. Some were carpenters, electricians, and bricklayers. At the parish, they hosted extensive fish and chicken dinners, which eventually helped them to raise enough money to build a church. Later, a school was built for first through 12th grade.

A credit union was established for its parishioners in 1965. “We service not only the parishioners at Our Mother of Mercy, but the entire Fifth Ward community,” said Ms. Provost.

Through the years, the parish grew from a little seed to a big tree with deep roots. The church services the needs of the community with food pantries, youth programs and 35 other ministries, which have come to life over these 85 years.

Father Brian Fox, SSJ, is pastor of Our Mother of Mercy Church in Houston, TX.

black parishes