Equity and Inclusion


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.

 

Equity and Inclusion Project

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Sister Cora Marie Billings, RSM

Sister Cora Marie Billings, RSM

Sister Cora Marie Billings has dedicated the past six decades of her life to rooting out racism, and she has no plans to slow down. She traces her roots in the church to her great-grandfather, who was a slave for the Jesuits at Georgetown University. He was raised in the Catholic faith and in accord with his wishes, Catholicism was retained through generations of her family. Eventually the family moved to Philadelphia where Sister Cora Marie was born and grew up.

Sister Cora Marie's upbringing in the Roman Catholic Church was at times very challenging due to the treatment she received within her white Catholic school and community as an African American Catholic. Withstanding these obstacles, her faith did not waiver; she responded to her call to religious life and in 1956 she became first African American woman accepted for membership within the Mercy Sisters of Philadelphia.

She had been encouraged to become a woman religious because of the example of two of her aunts who were already members of the Oblate Sisters of Providence of Baltimore, Maryland, a religious order established by, and for, women of African descent to teach enslaved children.

In 1968, Sister Cora Marie became a founding member of the National Black Sisters' Conference, which brought together Black nuns nationwide to assert their voices in the Catholic Church — and to urge it to confront more effectively "the sin of racism."

Serving as the campus minister of Virginia State University, she began working full time in the Diocese of Richmond under Bishop Walter F. Sullivan in the mid-80s. It was Bishop Sullivan who appointed her in 1990 to the pastoral position at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, a predominantly black parish that had lost its priest.

After 61 years, Sister Cora Marie remains active in the Sisters of Mercy’s reconciliation and social justice ministries. "If there is ever a chance for me to impact or help people to see what I feel is justice and the rights of people, then I will do whatever I can," she said. "I will always say 'yes' if I can, if I feel I can effect change."

 

Resources

Articles

First African-American nun to serve as a pastoral coordinator, Sister Cora Marie Billings continues to serve,” by Mark Robinson, Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 25, 2017.

Challenging and Healing Racism: Two Black Sisters of Mercy Share Their Stories,” by Catherine Walsh, Features Writer, November 16, 2021. 

Q & A with Sr. Cora Marie Billings on Black Catholicism and her life of 'firsts’,” by Sydney Clark, Global Sisters Report, November 30, 2021.

Nonviolence Critical Concern Community Feature: Sr. Cora Marie Billings,” by Kelsey Steines, Catherine McAuley Center, March 21, 2021.

Videos

An Evening Conversation with Sister Cora Marie Billings, R.S.M.,” Villanova University, February 12, 2019 - A "fireside chat" with Sister Cora Marie Billings, who received her B.A. in Humanities from Villanova in 1967.

Sister Cora Mare Billings - Finding Tomorrow: Experiences in Black Leadership,” Finding Tomorrow Project (FindingRVA), June 15, 2014. Interview directed by Marc Cheatham and Darrian P. Mack.

Sister Cora Marie Billings' reflection for Black Catholic History Month,” Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, November 25, 2019.


Reflection Questions

Cora Marie Billings speaks of her experience of racism in church and society.

1. Have any of your cultural-racial ancestors been the targets of bigotry or discrimination?

2. What forms of institutional racism have you witnessed and/or participated in?

3. What have you done to root out anti-Black, anti-Hispanic/Latino, anti-Asian racism in your interpersonal and institutional experiences?


Prayer

"Shake Us From Our Slumber"
Prayer adapted from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When our eyes do not see the gravity of racial justice, shake us from our slumber and open our eyes, O Lord.

When out of fear we are frozen into inaction, give us a spirit of bravery, O Lord.

When we try our best but say the wrong things, give us a spirit of humility, O Lord.

When the chaos of this dies down, give us a lasting spirit of solidarity, O Lord.

When it becomes easier to point fingers outwards, help us to examine our own hearts, O Lord.

God of truth, in your wisdom, enlighten Us. God of hope in your kindness, heal Us. Creator of All People, in your generosity, guide Us.

Racism breaks your heart; break our hearts for what breaks yours, O Lord.

Ever present God, you called us to be in relationship with one another and promised to dwell wherever two or three are gathered. In our community, we are many different people; we come from many different places, have many different cultures. Open our hearts that we may be bold in finding the riches of inclusion and the treasures of diversity among us.

We pray in faith.

Amen.

 


Samuel Henderson

Irmandade de Boa Morte
(Sisterhood of the Good Death)

by Cheryl Liske, OP

In 2013, at the Con/Vida exhibit Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints, organized by Sister Barb Cervenka, OP, and Mame Jackson, I spied a small video screen playing a news reel on the "Sisterhood of the Good Death." I must have watched it through several times.

Who were these women and why had I never heard of them before?

I checked Wikipedia:

The Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Good Death (Irmandade da Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte) is a small but renowned Afro-Catholic religious group in the state of Bahia, Brazil. Founded in the early 19th century as a (Catholic) Church-sponsored beneficent Sisterhood for female African slaves and former slaves.

What I remember from the video was that this was one of the first "sisterhoods" birthed in the New World (early 1800s) and that one of their original and most subversive missions was to pool resources to buy persons out of slavery and hence provide for them the "good death as a free person."

Their three-day celebration of Our Lady of the Good Death (August 13-15) came to have social significance as it allowed slaves to gather, maintain their religiosity in a hostile environment and shape a corporate presence for defending and valuing of individuals. It became, for all of these reasons, an unrivaled means of celebrating life.

However, in 1989 the local bishop forbade the local priest to allow the Sisterhood access to the images of the virgin used in the festival. The Sisterhood did two things. First, to maintain their Catholic religious connection, they sought priests from the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Brazilian National Catholic Church. Second, they hired a lawyer and sued the church – and won. In 1999, with legal victory in hand and with a change in bishops, the local priest welcomed the sisterhood back into the parish church where they remain to this day.

Sister Barb said this:

"… the sisterhoods were Catholic and the women in them were also believers in the African practices. They celebrated for generations in the Catholic Church (until a few clergy got uptight) and they always conclude their celebration with the Mass of the Assumption of Mary. I have many photos of the women with rosaries in their hands. I think we are the ones that keep thinking that you can’t hold two precious things in your mind and heart at one time."

 

Resources

Video

"Our Lady of the Good Death: Afro-Catholicism and the Brazilian Cultural Heritage” - Lecture by anthropologist Stephen Selka, given October 23, 2013 at the College of the Holy Cross. This lecture tells the Sisterhood story, including the 10-year struggle with the institutional Church.

Articles

Intimate Portraits of Boa Morte, Where the 'Sisterhood of the Good Death' Honors Afro-Brazilian Ancestors” by Tarisai Ngangura, September 6, 2018. Beautiful photographs, a bit of the history and the sisterhood today, still involved in justice work.

The Sisterhood of the Good Death – Black female resistance and entrepreneurship in the 19th century,” interpreted by Jess Vieira. An online slide show. 

Sisterhood of the Good Death” – July 16, 2019 post on the blog Nomadic Noni: Connecting Africa + Diaspora

Fighting Poverty, Plagued By Violence: Why 10,000 Black Women in Brazil Marched for Their Rights” by Kiratianan Freelon, posted on the website of American’s Black Holocaust Museum on November 24, 2015.


Reflection Question

Are we of a mindset that Catholic and African are mutually exclusive? Or can we hold two precious things in our minds and hearts at one time?


Prayer

Mary, your daughters of the Irmandade da Boa Morte celebrate the Feast of your Assumption as God’s affirmation of your grace and Earthly life.

Their sisterhood from the earliest days was dedicated to the liberation of the enslaved of their time.

Teach us to liberate our minds from prejudice and fear and show us the glory that is in all humanity lived in the liberation of Christ.

Amen.

 


Samuel Henderson

Samuel Henderson

Samuel Henderson was born into slavery in the early days of the 19th century. His life as a Catholic probably began in Memphis shortly after the Civil War.

Nothing of Samuel’s early life is known, but after his arrival in Memphis as a freed slave he began a ministry with a small Baptist community. Down the road from this church was Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church (usually called St. Peter’s). Samuel would often go to St. Peter’s and listen to the sermons preached by the Dominican priests and then go back to his own church and preach the Gospel to his community.

Eventually, Samuel and his wife converted to Catholicism and joined St. Peter’s, a predominantly Irish parish, as a member and handyman. His work for the people of this church lasted for 30 years, endearing himself and his family to the Dominicans who ministered there and to the Irish population who worshipped there.

This period of Memphis life was one of the most difficult in the city’s history. For years in the 1870s, yellow fever spread through the city and more than 7,000 citizens died from the disease. Life in Memphis was a struggle for all who lived there.

Huge numbers of the white population, mostly wealthy and Protestant, fled Memphis until federal troops blockaded the exits from the city. Most parts of the government, including the police, collapsed. Schools became hospitals and later morgues. Most of those who remained in Memphis were the poor; many of them were former enslaved people, Jewish people, or Irish immigrants.

Samuel became the protector of the Dominicans as they responded to the needs of the sick and the dying. He escorted them through the streets of Memphis, lighting their way with his lamp. This took unusual courage since he was a Black man and a Catholic in a city known for its racism and anti-Catholic bigotry. He also went into the homes of the dying, knowing that he could easily be struck with disease. He cared for the Dominican priests, often being the one to robe them as they were prepared for burial.

Samuel lived another 30 years as a faithful member of St. Peter’s parish and died in 1907. The only known photo of Henderson is found in St. Peter’s. He is remembered today by the name that appears on his monument in the "Negro Section" of Calvary Cemetery, "St. Peter’s Sam."

 

Resources

Most of this material is taken from an article in the Black Catholic Messenger which is based on work done by Morris Butcher and published on March 9, 2022.

 

Reflection Questions

What opportunities in my life, both past and current, call me to go beyond my comfort zone and respond to the needs of others?

How have I responded in the past? 

What added strength do I need to face future calls?


Prayer

Good and gracious God,

Now and then in our lives we come in contact with some truly giving persons who reflect so clearly your graciousness and goodness. Samuel Henderson was one of these true followers of your Son.

Help us to imitate his willingness to give and not count the cost, to stand in the midst of danger and not retreat, to see in the faces of those who suffer, your reflection and grace.

Help us learn through his life what it means to be truly a follower of your Son.

We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus.

Amen.

 


The Healy Family

An Extraordinary Family: The Healys of Georgia

The Healy Family story begins in 1818 when Michael Morris Healy immigrated to the United States from County Roscommon, Ireland. Mr. Healy acquired acreage in Georgia through a government land giveaway and turned his land into a very productive and successful cotton plantation. Like many of his fellow Georgia cotton plantation owners, he also bought 49 enslaved people to work his fields, and among them was Eliza Clark Smith who he took as his common-law wife. Together they raised nine children.

Neither Eliza nor the children could be freed by Michael Healy, so to enable the children to receive the kind of education a prosperous family would want, Michael found schools in the North for his children to attend. The direction of the family changed when by chance, Michael Healy met Bishop John Bernard Fitzpatrick on board a ship traveling from New York to Boston. The bishop told Mr. Healy of a new school that was opening: the College of Holy Cross, which initially offered elementary school education. In 1844, James, 14, Hugh, 12, Patrick, 10, and Sherwood, 8, went to Massachusetts where they were baptized by the Jesuits of Holy Cross and began their studies. Young Michael Healy followed his brothers to Holy Cross in 1849.

James, Sherwood, and Patrick would become priests and all three of the daughters entered religious life in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The oldest daughter, Martha, would leave the convent and marry a prosperous Irishman in Boston. James became the second Bishop of Portland, Maine; Patrick, a Jesuit, was the second President of Georgetown University, and Sherwood was appointed Professor of Moral Theology and Director of Student Discipline at St. Joseph's Provincial Seminary in Troy, New York. Sherwood's career in the priesthood was cut short by his death in 1875 at the age of 39. Amanda Josephine joined the Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph and would also at die at age 39. Eliza followed Martha into the Congregation of Notre Dame and went on to become a superior in the order. 

What is so extraordinary is that although some people, including the bishop knew of their origins, the Healys did not widely identify as Black in their lifetimes, but achieved many “first” accomplishments. 

 

Resources

Articles and Books

"The Healy's [sic]: An Extraordinary Family" on the website Footnotes to Irish History in the Americas (posted April 25, 2012)

James M. O’Toole, Passing for White:  Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920. University of Massachusetts Press (August 1, 2002)

"The Healy Family," from the website of the St. Joseph Catholic Church, Largo, Maryland

James Augustine Healy: The First African American To Be Ordained a Roman Catholic Priest,” Virginia Commonwealth University Social Welfare History Project  

"In the beginning, there were Black Catholics," U.S. Catholic article published on October 12, 2021, that details a 1993 interview with Father Cyprian Davis, OSB

"Celebrating the Contributions of Black Catholics" by Michael R. Heinlein on CERC (Catholic Education Resource Center), reprinted from Simply Catholic (February 1, 2022) Reprinted with permission from Simply Catholic.

"The Non-Racist Healy Family," by Larry Peterson on Catholic 365 (March 15, 2019)

Videos

"Passing in Boston: The Story of the Healy Family" talk by author and history professor James O'Toole
https://youtu.be/qPeM69lFwzE

“BLACK | IRISH - The Saga of the Healy Family in America,” trailer for documentary on the Healy Family by the African American Irish Diaspora Network
https://youtu.be/XcP0521S_Ns

“Who Was James Augustine Healy? A Black History Biography” by Shalone Cason, December 3, 2020
https://youtu.be/7zFEAT5rw8A

“The Life and Biography of Patrick Francis Healy” by the Knowledge Video Channel, March 3, 2022
https://youtu.be/QFpTO3vAyoI

 

Reflection Questions

1. What is of most significance to you in learning about this extraordinary family?

2. The relationship between Michael Morris Healy and Eliza Clark was not the kind of relationship we think of when considering relationships between a slave owners and enslaved women. Was Michael Morris Healy a man ahead of his times in his relationship with Eliza Clark? What are the implications of how they lived for other mixed race couples?

 


Prayer

For the Diversity of Races and Cultures


O God, you created all people in your image.

We thank you for the astonishing variety of races and cultures in this world.

Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of friendship, and show us your presence in those who differ most from us, 
until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children; 
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Amen.
 

From the Lutheran Book of Worship and the Book of Common Prayer


Dr. Lena Frances Edwards

Dr. Lena Frances Edwards

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.

 

Resources

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.
https://cfmedicine.nlm.nih.gov/physicians/biography_96.html

Video: "Spotlight: Dr. Lena Edwards" by Jersey City TV, February 7, 2022.
https://youtu.be/CeqGI7HokgM

Ebony Magazine article, "Lady Doctor to Migrant Workers," February 1962, pages 59-68.
https://books.google.com/books?id=LNcDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA59;source#v=onepage&q&f=false


Reflection Questions

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?


Prayer

O God,

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.

Amen.

 


Nicholas Black Elk, Lakota Holy Man and Catechist

Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk:
Lakota Holy Man and Catechist

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.

 

Resources

Black Elk cannonization website
https://blackelkcanonization.com

Film on Black Elk
https://blackelkcanonization.com/black-elk-documentary/

Historia Magazine Article by Alec Marsh, 25 October 2021
https://www.historiamag.com/black-elk-lakota-sioux-holy-man-warrior-survivor/

Lecture by Greg Salyer, PhD (President of the Philosophical Research Society) for series “Voices of Wisdom from Native Cultures”
https://youtu.be/5mdgv2kfqTs

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)
https://blackelkcanonization.com

Knights of Columbus Article
https://www.kofc.org/en/news-room/columbia/2021/september/knights-of-the-heights.html


Reflection Questions

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

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.

Amen.

© Diocese of Rapid City. Used with permission.

 


Daniel Rudd, Catholic Newspaper Editor

Daniel Rudd (1854-1933)
Catholic Newspaper Editor and Civil Rights Leader

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.”

Portrait of Daniel Rudd by students

Daniel Rudd
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)

 

Resources

Articles and Websites

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

Videos

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.


Reflection Question

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?”


Prayer

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!

Amen.

- Howard Thurman, from Meditations of the Heart


Sister Mary Antona Ebo, FSM

Sister Mary Antona Ebo, FSM (1924-2017)

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.

Portrait of Sister Mary Antona Ebo painted by Nevah Nesbit, age 14

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)

 

Resources

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.


Reflection Questions

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?"


Prayer

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.

Amen.

 

Written in 1985 by Sister Ruth Fox, OSB - http://sacredheartmonastery.com/our-community/meet-the-sisters


sketch of Mariana Grajales Cuello

Mariana Grajales Cuello (1815-1893)

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.

 

Resources

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


Reflection Questions

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?


Prayer

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.

Amen

 


Statue of Martin De Porres with quote by Pope John XXIII

Saint Martín de Porres Velázquez

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:

  • African Americans
  • Barbers
  • Hairdressers
  • Race Relations
  • Radio
  • Social Justice

 

Resources

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


Reflection Questions

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.


Prayer

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.

Amen

(adapted from Dominican Praise, ©2005)

 


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People of African Descent on the Path to Sainthood

Printable bookmark of African Americans on their Way to Sainthood (PDF)

U.S. Black Catholic History Links

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