Contact: Mary Jo Dangel
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January 11, 2001    346 words


Black History Month: Making Black Catholics Feel Welcome

CINCINNATI—The civil-rights movement of the 20th century inspired the Catholic Church to be more attentive to the concerns of African-American Catholics by establishing offices that helped to deal with racism in the Church. Thirty years and nearly 100 offices later, “The work of the offices [for black Catholics] has contributed greatly to opening the doors of the Church to minorities,” says Hilbert Stanley, executive director of the National Black Catholic Congress. As the United States has grown more racially diverse, offices and centers for other minority groups have opened, too.

Mandy Erickson describes the Catholic Church’s efforts to make African-Americans feel welcome and notes historic contributions of black Catholics in the February issue of St. Anthony Messenger, a national Catholic magazine published by the Franciscan friars in Cincinnati, Ohio. The story will also be available at

African-Americans comprise only about three percent of all U.S. Catholics, according to the CARA Catholic Poll 2000. Although over 1,000 parishes are predominantly African-American, most of the other 18,000 U.S. Catholic parishes are predominantly white.

An important role of the offices for black Catholics is to educate. Not only do they hold workshops on racism at parishes and schools, they also educate African-Americans about their Catholic history, both positive and negative. There were black saints and African popes. But there were also religious organizations that would not accept African-Americans, and some religious sisters brought their slaves with them to the convent.
Toinette Eugene is director of the African American Catholic Pastoral Center for the Oakland Diocese. Like others in her field, she strives to develop the next generation of black Catholic leaders and to ease the isolation that many black Catholics feel. “The center isn’t simply a vehicle to address the needs of black Catholics,” she explains. “It’s also a resource and presence for the entire diocese.”


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