Category: Josephite News

Merry Christmas from the Josephites

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.
Sing to the LORD, a new song.
Sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD, bless his name.

 Father William Norvel, SSJ, superior general of the Josephites, wishes you a Merry Christmas in the video above.

Since 1871, it has been the mission of the Josephite Priests and Brothers to proclaim the Good News in the African-American community.

This is our message. This is our work. Please be assured of our prayers and good wishes during this time of year.



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.

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.”

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


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


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


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


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




Year of Consecrated Life

Consecrated Life

Pope Francis proclaimed 2015 the Year of Consecrated Life. The first day of the new year began on the first Sunday in Advent, Nov. 30. The Year of Consecrated Life will end on February 2, 2016, the World Day of Consecrated Life.

In a canonical sense, the Catholic Church defines consecrated life as a form of Christian living by one who is faithful to follow Jesus Christ and takes public vows recognized by the Church.

Consecrated persons commit themselves, for the love of God, to chastity, poverty and obedience. Consecrated life may be lived in institutes or individually and can include clergy or lay people.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, consecrated life is “characterized by the public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, in a stable state of life recognized by the Church.”

“Consecrated life is very important. It has contributed to the church a ministry of service to many,” said Father William L. Norvel, SSJ, superior general of the Josephites. “We evangelize in the African-American  apostolate and this is one of the gifts of consecrated life.”

The Josephites minister to African Americans in 41 parishes around the United States.

The year also marks the 50th anniversary of both the Second Vatican Council’s “Constitution on the Church” and the publication of the conciliar decree on the renewal of consecrated life “Perfectae Caritatis.” The Vatican stated that the purpose of the Year of Consecrated Life is to “make a grateful remembrance of the recent past” while embracing “the future with hope.”

The Josephite community is still making plans on how it will mark the Year of Consecrated Life.



O God, throughout the ages you have called women and men to pursue lives of perfect charity through the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. During this Year of Consecrated
Life, we give you thanks for these courageous witnesses of Faith and models of inspiration. Their pursuit of holy lives teaches us to make a more perfect offering of ourselves to you. Continue to enrich your Church by calling forth sons and daughters who, having found the pearl of great price, treasure the Kingdom of Heaven above all things. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
– Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life And Vocations |




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 on our website: www.

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.

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.”

Oldest U.S Diocese Celebrates 225 years


By Father Frank Hull, SSJ

The Josephite community has its roots in Baltimore. Its call came from here. Its mission began here. Its work flowered here. Its headquarters opened here and remains here. The Josephites are happy to be a 143-year part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s 225-year history.

When the American Bishops met in Baltimore in 1866 during the Second Plenary Council, they sent a plea to Rome to send missionaries to the recently emancipated slaves. At the same time, the Catholic Church in England was forming a community to prepare priests to send

to the foreign missions. This was the St. Joseph Foreign Mission Society under the direction of Father Herbert Vaughan. In 1871, he offered the first four priests to Pope Pius IX who directed them to America where the archbishop of Baltimore, Martin John Spalding, welcomed them to St. Francis Xavier parish, the Jesuit-sponsored community of African Americans. This became the first fully staffed African-American parish in the country and still thrives at its third location in East Baltimore.

The Josephites extended their ministry to Prince George’s County in Maryland and south to Virginia and North Carolina and by 1888 had 15 priests. That same year, in an effort to attract American vocations, they purchased the old Western Maryland Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore, directly behind St. Mary’s Seminary, and named it St. Joseph’s Seminary. The students attended classes at St. Mary’s for 48 years and it was the first seminary in the country to admit black students. In 1891, Father Charles Uncles, one of the seminarians, was ordained in the Baltimore Cathedral by Cardinal Gibbons, the first black priest ordained in the United States. Father Uncles was a native Baltimorean and a member of St. Francis Xavier parish.

XavierChurchThe Josephites established its second parish – St. Peter Claver on Fremont Avenue in Baltimore, which was served by priests from St. Joseph’s Seminary. The seminary that year produced the first printed copy of The Colored Harvest (now The Josephite Harvest), the oldest continually published mission magazine in the country.

Another sign of growth was the 1889 purchase of the Highland Park Hotel in the Walbrook section of Baltimore as a minor seminary. The building was renovated with the help of St. Katharine Drexel’s sister. The institution trained young seminarians until it moved from Baltimore to Newburgh, New York, in 1930.

In collaboration with Baltimore’s Cardinal James Gibbons and the approval of the parent English Society of St. Joseph, it was decided that a separate American community with a singular purpose of serving African Americans would attract more men and provide a more efficient administration. In 1893, five men chose to begin the new community with the name of St. Joseph’s Society of the Sacred Heart (Josephites). Cardinal Gibbons assumed local jurisdiction and the five men headquartered in Baltimore were now in charge of eight churches and two institutions.

The new community faced many challenges with a shortage of men and an excess of financial and social problems. But the Lord provided both men and means for expansion, especially into the southern dioceses. In Baltimore, St. Monica, St. Pius V, St. Veronica and Christ the King parishes were added. Through demographic changes, two of these were eventually eliminated. One of these, St. Monica Church, established in 1893, was eventually demolished to make way for the Orioles’ Baseball stadium. St. Pius V had its origins in St. Barnabas Church in 1907 and was recently joined with St. Peter Claver parish. St. Veronica’s has been in the Cherry Hill neighborhood since 1945.

When Washington was part of the Baltimore archdiocese, Josephites had served St. Augustine parish in the early 1880’s. Holy Redeemer parish was erected in 1922 and Incarnation and Good Shepherd parishes in 1924. Three years later, the Josephites assumed pastorship of St. Vincent de Paul when a vast urban re-construction leveled most of the Good Shepherd area. In 1932, the Josephites opened St. Joseph’s parish in Glenarden. Holy Family Church in Mitchellville had a Josephite pastor from 1938 to 1972. The Church of the Epiphany in Georgetown was built as a Josephite parish and continued for 35 years.

The Josephites rejoiced when one of its own, Josephite Father John Ricard, was appointed auxiliary bishop of Baltimore in 1984. Born into the Josephite parish of St. Francis Xavier in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he served Baltimore with special distinction as urban vicar for 13 years. He was appointed the Ordinary of the Pensacola-Tallahassee diocese in northern Florida where he served until his retirement in 2011. He is now rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Washington, a building dedicated by Baltimore’s Archbishop Michael Curley in 1929.
Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 2.52.42 PMThe Josephite presence in the Baltimore archdiocese has been greatly enhanced by several religious communities of Sisters. The community of Franciscan Sisters, founded in Glen Riddle, Pennsylvania, by the sainted Baltimorean Bishop John Neumann when he was Philadelphia’s archbishop, came to staff St. Peter Claver School in 1890 and served for 108 years. The Josephites had long been associated with the Sisters’ St. Joseph’s Hospital at both its old location on Eager Street in Baltimore and the new one in Towson, Maryland. The O’Dea Medical Building at the Towson site is named for a former Josephite superior general and long-time chaplain.

The Baltimore-based Oblate Sisters of Providence taught in the first Josephite parish school at St. Francis Xavier in 1878. In 1893, they taught in Baltimore’s archdiocesan schools in Washington – at St. Cyprian’s until 1986 and from 1923 to 1954 at Good Shepherd (St. Vincent). Josephites have long been chaplains at the Oblates’ century-plus-old St. Frances Academy on Chase Street in East Baltimore whose chapel was dedicated by Cardinal Gibbons in 1907.

The House of Good Shepherd for Colored Girls was established in Baltimore in 1892 with the help of the pastor at St. Peter Claver who had interested Mrs. Elizabeth Morrell, sister of St. Katharine Drexel, to finance a suitable building.

The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart grew from a ladies’ St. Joseph Guild at the new Josephite parish of St. Peter Claver in 1890 specifically to teach religion to black children in public schools. The religious community was approved by Cardinal Gibbons who appointed a Josephite as their first superior. By 1895, they had four houses on West Biddle Street where they conducted an industrial school and did catechetical work in six parishes. They pioneered in working with the deaf while maintaining their special mission to catechetical teaching.

Their presence in Baltimore continues from their house in Towson.

In the early 1940s, the School Sisters of Notre Dame were prominent in community affairs in the Josephite parish of St. Veronica in the Cherry Hill area of Baltimore. The parish developed its Head Start Program into one of the country’s largest. The Sisters had been teaching at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Washington 20 years before the Josephites were assigned the parish in 1943. Their ministry there covered 85 years.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 2.52.34 PMThe Josephites were instrumental in opening the first orphanage for black girls in Baltimore –
St. Elizabeth’s on St. Paul Street in 1881. The Sisters of St. Francis were originally an Anglican community working with the poor in London and Father Vaughan brought them into the Church in 1871 and appointed a Josephite as their first ecclesiastical superior. Ten years later, the now Bishop Vaughan asked them to come to Baltimore where they assumed operation of a home for African-American girls on St. Paul Street near the Josephite St. Francis Xavier Church. They opened an orphanage on the Josephite minor seminary property in Walbrook in 1889 and later moved to Maryland Avenue. Presently, they operate St. Francis School for Special Education and St. Elizabeth School.

The most recent Josephite house in Baltimore opened in 1961 as a retirement and nursing facility for its members. It had been the home of the Jenkins family who had built Corpus Christi Church on Mount Royal Avenue. Cardinal Gibbons was a visitor to this 1880’s-era house and offered Mass in its chapel. A new facility was built in 1999, dedicated by Cardinal William Keeler. The older building has been used as a Josephite novitiate.

For the last 84 years, the Josephite headquarters has been on North Calvert Street. The current Superior General is Father William Norvel, the first African American to head the Society. No stranger to Baltimore, he had served as Consultor General from 1983 to 1987 and was pastor of St. Francis Xavier parish from 1996 to 2000.

The Society continues to direct from Baltimore. There are Josephites in 14 dioceses and two seminary sites in Nigeria where 16 men are in study. Six others study in Washington.

May the nourishing by the Archdiocese of Baltimore in the past continue God’s work ad multos annos.