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In response to the proposal from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) that congregations focus on the dismantling of racism, the Adrian Dominican Sisters began by identifying resources that can assist us in raising our consciousness of white privilege and white supremacy, both personally and systematically.
Since January 2021, our Toward Communion: Undoing Racism and Embracing Diversity Committee and our Justice Promoters have collaborated on a project to provide information on prominent Black and Indigenous Catholics who have made significant contributions to the church and society, along with reflection questions and a prayer.
In May of 2022, Kevin D. Hofmann was named the founding Director of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion for the Congregation. With the goal of normalizing conversations about race and culture and discussing what it means to feel included and excluded, Kevin began contributing to this blog in June of 2022 and shares his unique experience of growing up Black in a white family in Detroit.
Lena Frances Edwards was born in Washington, D.C., on September 17, 1900. Her father, Thomas W. Edwards, was a dentist and a professor at Howard University. Her mother, Marie Coakley Edwards, was a homemaker.
Lena graduated as valedictorian from Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., and went on to earn an undergraduate degree at Howard University in three years. She completed her medical training at Howard Medical School in 1924.
In 1926, Lena and her husband, Keith, also a doctor, entered medical practice in Margaret Hague Hospital in Jersey City, New Jersey. Because of her race and her gender, Lena was prevented from being given a residency in obstetrics and gynecology until 1945. When she finally decided to sit for the National Board Examinations, she had to fight to garner the necessary hospital endorsements. Obstacles to her advancement were always in front of her, and with prayer and grit, she always seemed to knock them down.
In addition to her work with patients, Lena began a career speaking on public health and natural childbirth while serving the European immigrant community. In spite of this demanding work, she raised six children who would later serve in the roles of physician, social worker, military officer, and in church ministry.
In 1954, Lena returned to Washington, D.C., and took a position at Howard University teaching obstetrics. In due time she was offered the job as a department chair, but she rejected the offer because of her strong objections to abortion.
In 1960, Lena moved to Hereford, Texas, to help start Our Lady of Guadalupe Maternity Clinic for Mexican migrant women. She served there until 1965 when a heart attack cut her career short. Inspired by the ministry of the Franciscan Friars, Lena, at the age of 60, helped found Our Lady of Guadeloupe Maternity Clinic in Hereford, Texas, a mission serving the Mexican migrant families. Not only did she provide much of the funding for the building of the clinic, she also worked there without pay until her heart attack forced her to move back to Washington. After her heart attack, she went back to Washington and resumed work at the Office of Economic Opportunity and Project Head Start.
While in Jersey City, she had focused on treating the Eastern European immigrants. Now, in the nation’s capital, she turned her attention to working with African-Americans. She became part of the Urban League, the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, the Social Work Advisory Committee, and the Catholic International Council. She also served on boards for unwed mothers and local maternal welfare organizations. In 1970, she was forced to retire because of a weakening heart condition.
Lena was a lifelong Catholic. She became a lay Franciscan in 1947. Her son, Thomas Madison, joined the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement in 1953 and was ordained as Father Martin in 1962 as the order's first African American priest.
Lena received a number of awards during her lifetime. In 1955, she was named Medical Woman of the Year by the New Jersey district of the American Medical Women's Association. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. and was awarded an honorary degree from St. Peter's College, New Jersey (1966), and the Poverello Medal as one whose life exemplifies the ideals of St. Francis of Assisi in 1967. This remarkable woman, mother, and physician died on December 3, 1986.
Smith, Deborah (1994). "Edwards, Lena Frances (1900–1986)" in Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 387–388.
Article on Dr. Lena Frances Edwards for "Changing the Face of Medicine," an exhibition of the National Library of Medicine.
Video: "Spotlight: Dr. Lena Edwards" by Jersey City TV, February 7, 2022.
Ebony Magazine article, "Lady Doctor to Migrant Workers," February 1962, pages 59-68.
Why is it, do you think, that Lena Frances Edwards is relatively unknown to most Catholics?
How could you bring Lena Frances Edwards to the awareness of your church community?
We are awed by the example of Lena Frances Edwards in her pursuit of a place in our society where she could exercise her gifts of generosity and healing.
We ask for the same gifts of perseverance and care for others as we walk our way in our world today, a world so in need of the physical and spiritual healing that she practiced so earnestly.
Give us, too, the strength and courage to be witnesses of your love and mercy as we struggle with all the injustices that still exist in our world today.
We ask this in the name of your son, Jesus.
We have investigated racism in light of outstanding African Americans who were known for their deep faith and commitment to Catholicism. This month we focus and reflect on the horrors of racism regarding our indigenous brothers and sisters. We reflect on Black Elk or Heȟáka Sápa, which is his Lakota (Sioux) name. Black Elk was known as a visionary of the Oglala Lakota tribe, a traditional healer (Medicine Man) and is a candidate for canonization in the Catholic Church.
What took place in the 400 years between Christopher Columbus’ arrival in what became the United States and the birth of Black Elk was horrific. Land grabbing and forced exile by the newly arrived colonists were key to life in the New World. Greed dominated transactions. Treaties were made between the Natives and the colonists and were quickly broken or disregarded. It was commonly thought that only Christian people were fit to inhabit the New World.
Black Elk was born in what is now Wyoming. Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, and part of both Dakotas were then known as Lakota Territory. Like his father, Black Elk was a warrior. He participated in both the Battle of Little Big Horn and the massacre at Wounded Knee. After Wounded Knee, his tribe was forced to live on a reservation. The Lakota became impoverished and prisoners on their own land that had been granted them by a treaty.
At age five, Black Elk had the first of two visions. It was revealed to him in his visions that he was destined to become a powerful leader. He believed that he was commanded to save his people and the planet.
Black Elk grew up participating in indigenous religion. His first wife converted to Catholicism; in 1904, shortly after his wife’s death, Black Elk was baptized and raised his children as Catholics. The story of his baptism is told that as a Lakota Medicine Man (healer), Black Elk, along with a local Jesuit missionary, were both called to the tent of a seriously ill young boy. Black Elk, using his drum and tobacco, began to sing, calling on the spirits to heal the boy. In the midst of the tribal ceremony, Father Joseph Lindbender, SJ, arrived. He was horrified of the pagan ways of this ceremony. The sick boy had been baptized. The priest did his healing ritual and invited Black Elk back to Holy Rosary Mission.
Two weeks later Black Elk was baptized Nicholas Black Elk. Nicholas Black Elk continued as a Lakota Medicine Man and as a Catholic Catechist. He was known to use both his pipe and his rosary on a regular basis while praying. He was able to integrate both the Lakota and Catholic religions into his spirituality.
In 2016, Nicolas Black Elk’s grandson, George Look Twice, petitioned a bishop to consider him for canonization.
Black Elk cannonization website
Film on Black Elk
Historia Magazine Article by Alec Marsh, 25 October 2021
Lecture by Greg Salyer, PhD (President of the Philosophical Research Society) for series “Voices of Wisdom from Native Cultures”
Lecture by historian Damian Costello “The Legacy of Nicholas Black Elk.” Costello is also author of the book Black Elk: Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism (Orbis Books)
Knights of Columbus Article
1. What interests you most abut the life of Nicholas Black Elk?
2. Name other noteworthy Indigenous people you are aware of.
3. If you have ever visited a Native American reservation, recall what life was like for our Indigenous brothers and sisters.
Prayer of Nicholas Black Elk
Grandfather, Great Sacred One,
you have been always,
and before you nothing has been.
There is nothing to pray to but you.
The star nations all over the universe are yours,
and yours are the grasses of the earth.
Day in and day out, you are the life of things.
You are older than all need,
older than all pain and prayer.
Grandfather, all over the world
the faces of the living ones are alike.
In tenderness they have come up
out of the ground.
Look upon your children
with children in their arms,
that they may face the winds,
and walk the good road to the day of quiet.
Teach me to walk the soft earth,
a relative to all that live.
Sweeten my heart and fill me with light,
and give me the strength to understand
and the eyes to see.
Help me, for without you I am nothing.
© Diocese of Rapid City. Used with permission.
Known as one of the most influential Catholics of his time, Daniel Rudd was the architect of the Black Catholic Movement, activist and advocate for racial justice in society and the church, a pioneering Catholic journalist who published the first Black Catholic newspaper, and founder of the National Black Catholic Conference.
During February, which is both Black History Month and Catholic Press Month, it seems appropriate to profile Daniel, who had a deep faith and commitment to truth. Encountering many obstacles in his work, including persistent racism, Daniel Rudd was able to see the good in others and the potential for what humanity could be.
Born into slavery in 1854 in Bardstown, Kentucky, to Robert and Elizabeth Rudd (both devout Catholics who brought up their 11 children in the Catholic Church), Daniel developed a deep faith and love of the Catholic Church..
He moved to Springfield, Ohio, to live with an older brother and to attend high school. After completing high school he began his work in newspapers and established the forerunner of the American Catholic Tribune (ACT), the Ohio State Tribune. He focused on promoting racial equality and advocating for racial integration in the Springfield schools.
Daniel began publishing ACT in 1866. Although his intent was that this paper be for Black Americans, many white people subscribed to the paper. In an article for The Catholic Telegraph, Sarah Ater wrote, “He used the newspaper to share the Catholic faith, asking his readers to give the teachings of the Church a fair hearing. ... ACT was also a vehicle for Rudd to advocate for the recognition of the equality and dignity of Black Americans. He firmly believed that no race is better than another, and that all are brothers and sisters before Jesus.”
Although he was aware that racism existed within the Catholic Church, in the pages of ACT, Daniel promoted the rights of African Americans on a practical level. He advocated for desegregation and he wrote passionately for higher education opportunities and vocational schools. Daniel’s mission and philosophy was evident in his features and editorials: “The Catholic Church alone can break the color line. Our people should help her to do it.”
In 1889, the first the National Black Catholic Congress took place in Washington, D.C. According to writer Joyce Duriga, Daniel believed that “no group was more passionate or desirous of the advancement of Black people than Black Catholics. For that reason they should gather and become leaven for their race in America.” The Congress met five times between 1889 and 1894 but then ended quite unexpectedly; the National Black Catholic Congress resumed again in 1987 in Washington, D.C.
In 1894, Daniel moved his struggling ACT to Detroit, but this move did not prove to be successful and ACT was discontinued. Eventually, Daniel would return to his Bardstown roots where he would die on December 3, 1933.
To honor Daniel’s legacy in both journalism and battling racism, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Catholic Social Action and African American Pastoral Ministries offices erected a historical marker for him on Dec. 5, 2021, at St. Raphael Church in Springfield, Ohio. The marker’s two sides commemorate his work as a Catholic journalist and as a layperson of faith and action. It includes Daniel’s own words written in 1890, “This country is not properly civilized and will not be until men learn to treat each other on their merits and not the color of their skin, their eyes, or their hair.”
Painting by students under the supervision of artist Habacuc Samuel Bessiake
Part of the 2020 Black Catholic Heroes Project
Images of Black Catholics painted by students employed by the
College for Creative Studies’ Detroit Neighborhood Arts Corps
(used with permission)
“Daniel Rudd: The Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man” by Sarah Ater - The Catholic Telegraph, the monthly magazine of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. January 25, 2022.
“Daniel Rudd: A pioneering leader in black Catholic journalism” By Joyce Duriga - Catholic News Service, Feb 23, 2019.
“In the History Corner ... Daniel Rudd as a model anti-racist activist and organizer” by Dr. Ivory Phillips - Editorial Jackson Advocate Online, November 19th, 2021.
Learn about the National Black Catholic Congress
Fr. George Torok Hallel Video Channel - https://youtu.be/7mZoJBonbg0
Daniel Rudd (1854-1932) editor of the only Catholic newspaper owned and published by African-Americans.
Richard Lane Ministries - https://youtu.be/x1SeChZmSMY
Celebrating Daniel Rudd for Black Catholic History Month, November 14, 2020.
Studio PLG - https://vimeo.com/474465064
Dedication of new memorial interpretive marker honoring the life of Daniel Rudd, Bardstown, Kentucky.
The legacy of Daniel Rudd – a legacy that applies to all Catholics – is this: Daniel Rudd was a man who saw and spoke truthfully about the racial divisions in his church and the injustice in his society. He asked himself, and he asks us, “What does it mean to be Catholic in the midst of this?”
Lord, Lord, Open Unto Me
Open unto me – light for my darkness
Open unto me – courage for my fear
Open unto me – hope for my despair
Open unto me – peace for my turmoil
Open unto me – joy for my sorrow
Open unto me – strength for my weakness
Open unto me – wisdom for my confusion
Open unto me – forgiveness for my sins
Open unto me – tenderness for my toughness
Open unto me – love for my hates
Open unto me – Thy Self for myself
Lord, Lord, open unto me!
- Howard Thurman, from Meditations of the Heart
Photo above courtesy of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary
According to an online article from St. Louis University, Sister Marie Antona Ebo cringed as she watched television coverage of Alabama state troopers and police beating voting-rights demonstrators in Selma in March of 1965. When Sister Antona’s superior asked her if she wanted to join an interfaith group traveling to Selma for a second march, Sister Antona said it was time for her to "put up or shut up," so she went.
She was the only African-American woman religious in the group of 48 priests, rabbis, Protestant clergy, and six Catholic nuns. When her group gathered at a church in Selma, Sister Antona was thrust to the front of the march and in front of a bank of microphones.
She spoke words that were heard worldwide: "I am here because I am a Negro, a nun, a Catholic and because I want to bear witness." Those words marked the beginning of Sister Antona’s career as a civil rights advocate.
Her presence, along with that of other sisters, was deeply encouraging to the marchers. Andrew Young, a civil-rights leader who would one day be famous in public service, told the marchers upon the sisters' arrival at the staging spot of Brown A.M.E. Chapel, in Selma, "Ladies and gentlemen, one of the great moral forces of the world has just walked in the door."
One highlight of the event for her was at Brown Chapel when a young black girl ran up and embraced her. "She said she knew sisters, but never had seen one like herself." That was blessing enough for Sister Antona: "There are times when you know God is in charge."
Sister Antona helped found and served as President of the National Black Sisters Conference and was featured in the 2007 PBS documentary “Sisters of Selma.”
In a 2011 interview with Catholic News Service about the new memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington, D.C., she said she hoped the 30-foot likeness of the civil rights leader would prompt soul-searching.
"If we have to keep talking about keeping the dream alive, then what have we been doing for it still to be a dream?" she said. "Martin was our dreamer; his dream was for his time. Who are our dreamers today? You have to search kind of hard to find people with new dreams appropriate for our time."
Sister Antona was among the first representatives of the church to go to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, in support of its protesting citizens following the murder of Michael Brown Jr., in 2014.
Sister Antona passed to her eternal reward on Nov. 11, 2017.
Sister Marie Antona Ebo, FSM
Painting by Nevah Nesbit, Age 14
Part of the 2020 Black Catholic Heroes Project
Images of Black Catholics painted by students employed by the
College for Creative Studies’ Detroit Neighborhood Arts Corps
(used with permission)
America Magazine, 2017, "Sister Antona Ebo’s lifelong struggle against white supremacy, inside and outside the Catholic Church," by Shannen Dee Williams.
NCR, Global Sisters Report, Nov. 2017, "Franciscan Sr. Mary Antona Ebo, civil rights leader, dies at 93," by Catholic News Service.
St. Louis University, 2017 - "Antona Ebo, F.S.M.: 1924-2017."
St. Anthony Messenger, May 2020, "Antona Ebo, FSM: Brave Sister of Selma" by John Feister.
YouTube video - News Channel 5 KSDK segment "Sisters of Selma," posted January 8, 2014.
If you were participating in a Black Lives Matter march and were "thrust in front of a bank of microphones," what would you say if asked, "Why are you here?"
A Non-Traditional Blessing
May God bless you with discontent with easy answers, half-truths, superficial relationships, so that you will live from deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, abuse, and exploitation of people, so that you will work for justice, equality, and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them and to change their pain to joy.
May God bless you with the foolishness to think you can make a difference in this world, so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done.
If you have the courage to accept these blessings, then God will also bless you with:
- happiness—because you will know that you have made life better for others
- inner peace—because you will have worked to secure an outer peace for others
- laughter—because your heart will be light
- faithful friends—because they will recognize your worth as a person.
These blessings are yours—not for the asking, but for the giving—from One who wants to be your companion, our God, who lives and reigns, forever and ever.
Written in 1985 by Sister Ruth Fox, OSB - http://sacredheartmonastery.com/our-community/meet-the-sisters
In 1957, the Mayor of Havana, Justo Luis Pozo del Puerto, officially declared Dona Mariana Grajales de Maceo the “Mother of Cuba.” A popular patriot, she advocated for human rights, Cuban independence, and the elimination of slavery. She was a faithful Catholic and fought intensely against Spain’s aggressive subjugation of Cuba that caused pain and suffering to her people.
Mariana was the daughter of free bi-racial parents from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. From her beloved parents she learned her faith and the idea of human equality. At the time she was born, black and bi-racial people occupied the lowest rank of social acceptance.
The family was a loving and tight unit. Mariana had consistent ground rules. She combined nurturing with high expectations of her children. She modeled her faith to her children.
She was a simple woman motivated by her deep faith that stood strong against the oppressive values and injustices in Cuba. Mariana affirmed her principles, struggling for Cuban independence and freedom for all.
During the War for Independence Mariana was in the wetlands tending to the wounded when her son, Antonio, was brought to her. Rather than become flustered, she became exalted in her commitment to the rebellion. Her equanimity and valor flourished through her deep faith.
Mariana Grajales’ influence in the economy and social relationships was long and lasting. Her family managed a farm and had two residences. Their generosity and kindness were known throughout the land.
Mariana died in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1893 just before Cuba was declared free. Her remains were transferred to her homeland and rest in the cemetery of Santiago de Cuba, under the blue sky of the land liberated by her sons.
Garcia, Pedro Antonio. Bohemia, Revista Cubana de Actualidad General, Cuba Siglo XIX: “Mariana, Marcos y los Maceo Grajales,” publicado el 12 Julio, 2018.
Documentos y testimonios facilitados por Olga Portuondo, Joel Mourlot y los investigadores del Centro de Estudios Antonio Maceo de Santiago de Cuba
Marmol, José (1998). Antonio Maceo Grajales El Titán de Bronce. Miami: Ediciones Universal.
Sarabia, Nydia (2006). Historia de una familia mambisa, de la compilación Papeles de Maceo.
Wikipedia article on Mariana
Article on Black Past website by Luis Escamilla - https://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/grajales-cuello-mariana-1808-1893
Video on "Mother of Cuba" Mariana Grajales Cuello from The Root
Cuban Genealogy Podcast episode on Mariana (14 minutes)
"Society, Culture, and Heroes: Depictions of Cuban Heroine Mariana Grajales Cuello, 1893-2000," Research paper by Rachel Elaine Archer, 2001
1. Have you experienced being a member of the lowest rank in any social circumstance?
2. If yes, what have you learned? If not, what can you learn?
Let us offer praise and thanksgiving to the Divine for women everywhere who inspire and challenge us with their valor, equanimity, and willingness to risk and dissent for the dignity and freedom of all.
Martín was a mystic and prophet, an apostle of friendship, a healer, a pioneer social worker, a lover of God and all creation.
He was born in Lima, Peru, on December 9, 1579. His father was a noble Spanish man, Juan de Porres. His mother, Ana Velázquez, was a beautiful Black woman, born in Panama and presumably a descendant of African slaves. Martín and his sister, Juana, grew up in harsh circumstances. The children were often rejected due to the union of his father with a Black woman, whom they resembled. Their father abandoned the family, thus poverty and shame surrounded them during Martín’s childhood. But Martín grew up just opposite these circumstances.
When he was 7 or 8 years old, he was allowed to go to school. He was very bright and a quick learner. At 10, he became an apprentice barber, a trade that involved knowledge of surgery and pharmacy.
Martín started by sweeping the floor and cleaning after closing. To the surprise of his master, Martín was quick in learning. All he learned as herbalist in the pharmacy from his teacher made Martín a healer, especially to the poorest and neediest. Thus, he devoted himself to the mission of charity through healing to all ethnic groups.
In 1594, Martín decided to knock at the door of the Dominican Convent in Lima and humbly ask to enter as a donado (a term used for people who literally donated themselves to a convent, becoming simple servants without the option to become priests). He started humbly serving by sweeping the floor and gardening. Soon his many gifts were recognized and he became the barber, wardrobe, and tooth-puller. Eventually Martín was in charge of the infirmary.
Martín was very accurate in his prognosis of patients. His fame spread, thus many sought him for healing. He took care of poor, rich, and animals. His love-filled spirit was always moved by God’s compassion. Martín was known for the healing of body and spirit.
On the night of November 3, 1639, Martín died in the Dominican convent he entered 45 years earlier, surrounded by his Dominican brothers and many influential people he guided and cured.
His process for beatification began on June 15, 1656, but the Dominican Order waited more than 400 years for Martín’s canonization (May 6, 1962). He was the first Black saint of the Western Hemisphere.
Saint Martín de Porres is the patron saint of:
Article and podcast on Saint Martin de Porres from Saint of the Day website by Franciscan Media.
"Who was Saint Martin de Porres?" by Anne Fullerton, MLIS, St. Martin de Porres School, Oakland, CA. Archived on 19 October 2013.
St. Dominic's Family: Over 300 Famous Dominicans by Sister Mary Jean Dorcy, OP, 1983, TAN Books.
"Feast of St. Martin de Porres," Dominican Praise: A Provisional Book of Prayer for Dominican Women, 2005, pages 789-790.
"Fray Escoba" - Spanish movie made in 1961
"Un mulato llamado Martin" - Mexican movie made in 1975
1. Is there something in Martín’s life that moves, touches, or challenges you?
2. Martín overcame racism and discrimination by rising above his circumstances. What can we learn from his example?
3. Pause and ponder about Martín’s compassion and commitment to the care of all God’s creation: plants, animals, and the poor and rich of all races.
We praise and thank God for the gift of our brother Martín:
Loving God, you call us to oneness with you. Free us from the sin of racism and discrimination.
The poor, the suffering, and the oppressed are always with us. Open our hearts to respond to their needs with tenderness and compassion.
All women and men are created in your image. Help us to recognize your presence in people from other cultures.
Martín’s work of justice flowed from his contemplative prayer. Inspire us all to integrate action and contemplation.
O Holy one, you inspired Martín to serve the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed with humility and love. Guide us to follow his remarkable example.
(adapted from Dominican Praise, ©2005)
Theresa was the first U.S.-born African-American woman to become a religious. The child of unwed parents of mixed racial lineage, she still received an education far superior to most women of her time, thanks to the kindness of her adoptive family, the Duchemins. Her upbringing in their Haitian refugee community enabled Theresa to attend a school established for the children by Elizabeth Lange and Magdalen Baras, also of Haitian origin.
In 1829 these women formed the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first congregation of African-American women in the United States. At age 19, Theresa was one of the founding members. While serving as General Superior of the congregation, Theresa came into contact with Rev. Louis Gillet who was seeking women religious to teach in the new state of Michigan.
Theresa agreed to help Gillet found a new congregation in Monroe, Michigan: the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. After a decade of successful ministry and growth in Monroe, a dispute over the congregation arose in 1859 between the bishops of Philadelphia and Detroit. The bishop of Detroit blamed Theresa, deposed her as General Superior, and sent her to a Pennsylvania foundation, which then became a separate branch of the IHM congregation.
Theresa struggled for years to reunite the two congregations. In an effort to remove herself as an obstacle to reunion, Theresa spent 18 years in exile with the Grey Nuns of Ottawa. During this time, the bishops of Detroit and Philadelphia forbade the IHM sisters to communicate with Theresa. Writings from both bishops indicate scorn for mixed race people and their male dominance over women’s congregations. In 1885, Theresa was allowed to return to the IHM community in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where she lived her last seven years.
What happened to Theresa is representative of the experience of thousands of women in the past. Vilified and banished for her assertiveness, for her lack of social respectability, and for her determination to remain faithful to what she believed was a God-given mandate, she saw her intentions and her community co-opted by men who thought they knew better than she what the community should be about. All this happened in the 1800s. Yet in some ways, the story and the situation are still occurring in our 21st century.
Our Founders page of IHM Sisters' (Monroe, MI) website - ihmsisters.org/who-we-are/history-and-archives/our-founders
History section of IHM Sisters' (Scranton, PA) website - www.sistersofihm.org/who-we-are/ihm-history/theresa-maxis.html
Pilgrim: Let Your Heart be Bold by Margaret Gannon (Scranton, PA: Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, 2018).
Paths of Daring, Deeds of Hope: Letters by and about Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin edited by Margaret Gannon (Scranton, PA: Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, 1992).
"Dangerous Memory: Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin and the Michigan Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary" in Building Sisterhood: A Feminist History of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Marita Constance Supan (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1997).
"Sharing a Co-Founder, IHM and Oblate Sisters Work on 20-Year Reconciliation," Global Sisters Report article by Dawn Araujo-Hawkins, September 3, 2015.
Read the poem "Christ in the Margins" by Edwina Gately (from her book, Christ in the Margins). In this poem, Edwina Gately has effectively described founders of present-day congregations.
Racism, sexism and clericalism challenged Theresa Maxis' intense call to serve God. How do we handle the tensions between church authority and congregational discernment? How do we resolve this?
Theresa Maxis had every reason to feel betrayed by church leaders and even some of her sisters. How do we rise above criticism, betrayal, and hypocrisy and stay focused on the mission?
Theresa was a true pioneer, daring to travel to new frontiers for the sake of mission. How are we breaking new ground today?
Gracious God, may the heritage we have received from our foremothers be like water flowing from a source that seeps into every part of us, touching every part of our lives, giving us life. In turn, may we become life-givers to everyone we meet.
May we burn with zeal for the call of our charism. In the spirit of our founders may we be active in our preaching so as to feed the hungry, heal the sick, make peace and challenge racism.
May we remember the spirit and courage of Theresa Maxis and Catherine of Siena as we model their service, their identification with the poor, and their commitment to the mission of Jesus.
Let us treasure always the perseverance and great faith of Theresa Maxis and all women leaders of the church.
The Stono Rebellion began on September 9, 1739, and is relatively unknown despite it being the largest uprising of enslaved people in the British colony of South Carolina. Some historians call it the most important revolt in North American history. Its story adds much to our Black Catholic heritage and the struggle for freedom and justice among enslaved people.
The rebellion began near the Stono River close to Charleston, South Carolina. The date of the rebellion was significant to the people who were Catholics from Kingdom of Kongo (now Congo) and were devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In their home country, September 8 was a day of devotions and fasting in honor of Mary for the Kongolese in Kongo and in the British colonies. She was especially invoked during times of tragedy and conflict. In 1739 the Kongolese in South Carolina celebrated September 8 as a day of prayer and fasting, as usual. The Rebellion took place invoking the Blessed Virgin Mary for liberty the next day.
The Kongolese Freedom Fighters, as they were known, raided a firearms shop and took ammunition. They went on to kill more than 20 white people, choosing to spare others. The rebels were headed south flying flags of the Marian color of blue. The group was hoping to reach St. Augustine, Florida – about 150 miles away – where fugitives were offered freedom in exchange for converting to Catholicism and serving in the colonial militia. However, the Kongolese Freedom Fighters never arrived in Florida.
The rebellion ended when whites returned fire and about 30 Freedom Fighters were killed. Others escaped, but most were captured over the next few months and then executed.
After the rebellion, harsher laws were enacted which limited the privileges of enslaved people for fear of future rebellions. They were no longer allowed to grow their own food, assemble in groups, earn money, or learn to read.
A traveling mural depicting Our Lady of Stono and 21 Black Catholics, including the rebellion leader Cato, was commissioned by the National Congress of Black Catholics in 2017.
Book by Peter H. Wood, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670s through the Stono Rebellion (London: W.W. Norton and Co, 1974)
Information on the Stono Rebellion from the 1998 PBS series Africans in America
Article in US Catholic by Damian Costello, September 1, 2020. “Pray with Our Lady of Stono to Heal the Wounds of Slavery.”
Information on the Stono Rebellion from the Library of Congress’ “America’s Story” website
The mural commissioned by the National Black Catholic Congress featuring Our Lady of Stono
1. Did you know of the Stono Rebellion? Were you surprised?
2. What is your reaction to these Kongolese Freedom Fighters taking action with the ratio of 2-to-1 of more enslaved people than owners in the British Colony?
3. This rebellion was rooted in a deep Catholic faith, devotion to Mary and a desire for freedom. It is an example of faith and action coming together. Share more recent examples in our history where faith required action for you.
Holy Mary, Mother of all people, we ask for your guidance and assistance in seeing injustice and prejudice where they exist in our lives.
Inspire in us the hope that we can work towards true freedom for all people.
Oakland Wiki says Mary Ann Wright was “a humanitarian activist” who lived and worked in Oakland, California, and fed East Bay residents for nearly three decades. To those she served, she was simply “Mother Wright.”
Born into an African-American Catholic family in New Orleans, Mother Wright married at age 14 and had nine children with her when she fled her abusive husband and moved to California. There, she worked picking the valley’s crops and as a domestic helper during the day and in a cannery at night.
In 1980, God told her in a dream “to feed the hungry.” She started out using her $236 Social Security check to buy food for a weekly dinner in Jefferson Park. She expanded to other areas of town, trudging beneath overpasses to deliver meals “with dignity,” she said, spreading out table cloths and wrapping forks in napkins.
Eventually Mother Wright secured a warehouse out of which she fed more than 450 people a day on a annual budget of $137,000. On holidays, long lines formed outside and Mother Wright was often on the sidewalk, bullhorn in hand, leading a prayer as people picked food, toys, and Christmas trees.
Her foundation also has helped people in Russia and Vietnam and founded a school in Kenya. In 2005, Mother Wright was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Caring Americans, by the Caring Institute.
When she was 86 she said of her life’s path, “It’s a miracle,” and “I’ll be here until the Lord comes for me.”
The Lord came for Mother Wright on May 7, 2009.
Oakland Wiki article on Mother Wright
Information on Oakland’s Mother of the Year Award, given to Mother Wright in 1989
"Mother Wright, tireless advocate for poor, dies," SFGate article by John Coté, 2009
"'I Heard That': Remembering Mother Wright – Oakland’s Mother Theresa," BeyondChron article by Rochelle Metcalfe, 2009
"Mother Wright, Angel to the Hungry, Dies at 87," East Bay Times article by Angela Hill, 2009
Mother Wright and The Iron Souls Motorcycle Club – YouTube video (photos by Hogphotog, Dianne Lukash Ray)
The Homegoing Celebration for Mother Wright – YouTube video
Congresswoman Barbara Lee tribute to Mary Ann Wright – YouTube video
1. Are you aware of food resources in your local community?
2. How might you assist?
O God, you who fed the hungry and tired have gifted the people of Oakland and beyond with the life and love of Mother Mary Ann Wright.
You called her as you did St. Catherine of Siena, from the walls of her large family into the lives of families seeking food and welcome. She brought the love of your Son through her cooking and hospitality; you were made manifest in the breaking of the bread.
Inspire us to love our neighbor through word and deeds, filling hearts and minds and bodies with the gifts of your creation freely given where needed.
In Jesus’ name, we pray.
Anne Marie Becraft had an extraordinary journey in Black History and in the Catholic Church. She was born in 1805 and lived her short life in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland. She was a free Black woman who devoted her life to education and faith. She lived during a challenging time for free Black people. She knew the value of education for all people and allowed nothing to deter her in providing education for Black girls.
At age 4, Anne began her own education in a school in Washington, D.C. This school was for both white and black children. This school closed in 1820 for racial reasons.
In that same year, at age 15, Anne started her own school for Black girls in Georgetown and operated it for the next eight years. She established her school in the midst of the nation’s and the Church’s slaveholding elite in Washington and Alexandria, Virginia. The school was known as Georgetown Seminary and was a declaration that Black people mattered, especially girls and women. With an average enrollment of 30-35 students, it was an academy for both Black boarders and day students. The girls were from the best Black families of the area. According to the encyclopedia Black Women in America, “she lived in a society in which slavery and racism were firmly entrenched, yet even in such a society she was able to stimulate in her students a desire for educational attainment.”
In 1831, Anne, felt called to religious life. She left the school in the hands of a promising student and moved to Baltimore to join the only religious order that would accept Black women. She became the 11th Black woman to join the Oblate Sisters of Providence and took the name Sister Aloysius.
On December 16, 1833, at age 28, Anne died from a chronic chest ailment.
Anne’s father, William, was the son of a free Black woman who worked as a housekeeper for Charles Carroll, cousin of Archbishop John Carroll, who founded Georgetown University. It is documented that William was the natural son of Charles, making Anne the granddaughter of Charles.
To honor the legacy of Anne and her dedication to Black education, Georgetown University named a building in her honor in 2017.
"The Black Catholic Nun Every American Should Know" by Shannen Dee Williams, posted March 3, 2020, at NCR's Global Sister Reports. https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/social-justice/blog/anne-marie-becraft-recognized-georgetown-university-pioneer-black-nun-early
"Highlighting Anne Marie Becraft" by Justine Wordon, posted November 13, 2020, at The Boston Pilot's Echoes.
"Viewpoint: Celebrating Anne Marie Becraft" by Melanne Verveer, posted April 18, 2017, at Georgetown University's student newspaper, The Hoya.
Video about Anne Marie Becraft by Georgetown University.
1. How incomprehensible, how amazing is it that a 15-year-old girl of color could establish a school in the 1830s in Washington, D.C.?
2. Ponder her commitment to the importance of education for girls of her race.
Holy One of justice and love, give strength to our hearts as we continue to struggle with OUR OWN sin of racism.
May Anne Marie be an inspiration to us, in doing the seemingly impossible tasks to better our world racially. Like her, may we meet courageously the struggles and inequities of our own time.
Give us the insight and vision to move forward in love and justice.
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Black Catholic Project posts
Hofmann's Equity & Inclusion posts
All blog posts
Printable bookmark of African Americans on their Way to Sainthood (PDF)
Black Catholic History page by Seattle University
Timeline from the National Black Catholic Congress
Sister Jamie T. Phelps, OP, discusses Black Catholics in America with Dr. Paul Lakeland for Fairfield University's "Voices of Others" video series
News report on one of the oldest Black Catholic parishes in the U.S., St. Elizabeth Catholic Church (formerly St. Monica) in Chicago, Illinois