Black History Month: Making Black Catholics
CINCINNATIThe 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 Churchs 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 www.AmericanCatholic.org.
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 isnt simply a vehicle to address the needs of black
Catholics, she explains. Its also a resource
and presence for the entire diocese.
Permission is granted to reprint this release.