By Heather Williams (Vicksburg Daily News) VICKSBURG – When Karla McHan was looking for a challenge last year, she had no way of knowing exactly how challenged she would be. McHan spent 22 years teaching social studies (mostly U.S. history but also world history, government, psychology and sociology) at Warren Central High School when she was offered the lead teacher position in 2012. “I really enjoyed seeing education from a different perspective and loved the opportunity to work more directly with teachers,” McHan said. The experience motivated her to go back to school for her master’s degree in educational leadership, something she had put off when her children were young.
“I decided it was time to venture out and knew I could bring my perspective as a longtime teacher to educational decision making,” she said. A rare history position opened at Vicksburg Catholic School in 2016, and McHan could not pass up the chance of working with a man who had been the principal of her elementary and junior high schools when she was a student: Dr. Buddy Strickland. “It seemed like everything just fell in place,” she says of making the move to St. Aloysius High School. VCS also offered McHan a unique opportunity to advance her career and more openly share her faith. “As a practicing Catholic, I was excited about being in a school environment that so beautifully incorporates faith and love of God and neighbor in its daily activities.” St. Aloysius is much smaller than Warren Central, and McHan said it was a great place to step into the role of principal last year. “The smaller setting helped create a stronger sense of family, and I got to know everyone better,” she said. “That’s important when taking on an administration role.” As far as finding the challenges she was searching for, McHan got what she wanted in more ways than one in her position as the school’s principal. She experienced the typical new-principal challenges such as gaining the faculty’s trust and learning how to best utilize each staff member’s individual strengths, but then life threw her a curve ball. ”Hands down, the biggest hurdle I have faced has been COVID-19,” she said. “I think all new principals spend their first year in survival mode, but that moves into a whole different level when a pandemic hits three-quarters of the way through.” McHan said that creating a distance learning program and putting it into action effectively was one of the most difficult tasks she has faced on any level of her education career, but it has been especially trying when coupled with the responsibility of every student and faculty member in her school. “I considered all of the typical administrator duties when I was deciding to move,” she said, “but helping teachers and students adapt to distance learning while identifying the academic gaps that come with extended time away from the classroom was never on my radar.” McHan credits her faith, the support of her family and the “fabulous faculty and staff at St. Al” for her success. She also credits the great relationship she has developed with Mary Arledge, principal of St. Francis Xavier Academy. “She is just an incredible mentor and supporter,” McHan said of Arledge. McHan is clearly not a person to relax when the going gets good. In addition to constantly trying to better the distance learning processes, she plans to continue her education and pursue a specialist’s degree. Her plans also include more time with family and traveling with her husband, David. “It may sound crazy considering the current state of educational practices, but I definitely foresee being able to relax a little soon,” she said, “and I can confidently say that because I know I have the backing of such a hard-working, supportive staff.”
(Reprinted with permission of the Vicksburg Daily News, www.vicksburgnews.com.)
It’s time to include people of color in the U.S. church’s models of holiness.
Testaments By Alice Camille Last fall in the month of All Saints, I rode the Amtrak from Providence, Rhode Island to Baltimore, Maryland. I was heading to a celebration of the life of Mother Mary Lange. Who’s that, you ask? She’s one of the Six. And if you have to ask, “Who are the other five?” then you have to hear the story. It started when I was asked to cowrite a book about U.S. saints. The publisher wanted to include all the American saints, plus the beatified (those one miracle short of sainthood). It’s not as clear-cut as it sounds. The trouble is defining what’s meant by an “American” saint. We were to cover U.S. saints only, not Canadian, not Central or South American. But should that list include those who ministered on the soil of this country before 1776? And does “U.S. soil” include Guam and Puerto Rico before, or even after, they became part of our national story?
Finally, we agreed on 12 saints: missionaries Isaac Jogues, Jean de Lalande, and René Goupil as well as Mohawk Kateri Tekakwitha. The five foundresses Elizabeth Ann Seton, Rose Philippine Duchesne, Theodore Guérin, Frances Xavier Cabrini, and Katharine Drexel. Philadelphia Bishop John Neumann and the healing presences of Father Damien De Veuster and Mother Marianne Cope. In addition, we admitted three who’d attained the title of Blessed: Franciscan Junípero Serra (since canonized and once more controversial), Redemptorist Francis Xavier Seelos, and Puerto Rican layman Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago. Alas, Blessed Charlie, as the last fellow is popularly called, was sacrificed to the limitations of page count. Sadly too, as his is an illuminating chapter of U.S. Catholic history. Kateri Tekakwitha was the lone person of color left in the book after the ejection of Blessed Charlie. This bothered us mightily at the time: the whitewashing of U.S. models of holiness. It wasn’t that the canonization pipeline hadn’t identified worthy candidates of color to nominate. A considerable number of Black, Cuban, and Puerto Rican Catholics languish on the backlogs of sanctity awaiting recognition. As we traveled the country visiting places where the saints and beatified had worked, we found informal shrines to others whose stories were as compelling as the ones we were commissioned to tell. We resolved to also promote their stories until their names were as well known as the folks with their own holy cards. Mother Mary Lange is on our wish list for formal sainthood. Right now she bears the title Servant of God (step one of formal recognition of her cause in Rome). Her birth date at the end of the 18th century in Cuba is uncertain. But she lived into her 90s and died in 1882. Hers was a difficult era of history for a dark-skinned woman. That’s saying something, since no era has been especially easy for someone like her. Elizabeth Lange emigrated to the United States in the early 19th century, settling in Baltimore as a free woman of color in a slave state. Public education wasn’t open to Black children, so Lange opened a free school in her home entirely self-financed. Sulpician Father James Hector Nicholas Joubert noticed her efforts and encouraged her to found an order of sisters to carry out this ministry. The Oblate Sisters of Providence became the first Black religious community in the nation. Lange took the name Sister Mary. She and three other women continued to educate girls of color with financial and institutional support from Father Joubert. The sisters also offered night classes to adults, nursed the sick during a cholera epidemic, and opened a home for children orphaned by the Civil War. Father Joubert died in 1843. Without him, ecclesial support evaporated. The sisters became destitute, and their ministries suffered. White priests (there were no Black ones) refused to provide sacraments or spiritual counsel to Mother Lange’s community. The sisters were spat on and pushed into the street by passersby. Many left the order. Yet Mother Lange persisted until she became blind and enfeebled in her final years. Her community survives today. Meeting today’s Oblates in Baltimore and hearing them tell the history personally was deeply thrilling. I expressed interest in sharing Mother Lange’s life more broadly, and each time I mentioned this, whichever sister I was addressing immediately insisted: Tell the stories of all Six. Promote the Six. We need the Six. These generous women were not merely trying to get their immensely impressive foundress canonized. They were just as vocal concerning Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1766–1853), whom I’ve privately dubbed the Holy Hairdresser. Toussaint was an enslaved Haitian with a gift for coiffure. Transplanted with a white family to New York City, this gracious man refused to see color when it came to assisting those in want. He made lucrative earnings doing hair for high society. He used his income to support Black schools and whites-only orphanages as well as impoverished priests and countless other individuals in need. When the white widow whose household he served fell on hard times, Toussaint supported her financially. This remains astonishing. Only then did she offer Toussaint his liberty. Also among the Six is Venerable Henriette Delille (1813–1862), Creole foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family. These New Orleans sisters offered an education to free mixed-race children by day and enslaved people by night — ever walking the precarious color line. Of its bitter restrictions, these Creole sisters were themselves well versed. They also provided shelter for destitute Blacks, cared for the sick, and served the poor of New Orleans. Despite their good works, due to prejudice these sisters were forbidden to wear a religious habit in public until a decade after Mother Henriette’s death. U.S. Catholics should know Lange, Toussaint, and Delille. We should also know Servant of God laywoman Julia Greeley (born between 1833 and 1848, died in 1918), an illiterate enslaved woman who became a one-woman St. Vincent de Paul to the poor of Denver. She begged from the rich families and gave to the poor ones. Conscious of their shame in accepting aid from a Black woman, she brought help to white families only after dark. More of us know Venerable Augustus Tolton (1854–1897), the first Black priest recognized as Black ordained in the United States. (Earlier, the Healy brothers had passed for white.) After every seminary in the country refused to admit Tolton, he went to Rome to prepare for ordination. He faced fierce bigotry, lack of ecclesial support, and financial distress. His priesthood ended too soon, a result of the poor health care options available to Black Americans. Servant of God Thea Bowman (1937–1990) rounds out the Six. Converting to Catholicism and joining the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration was no easy matter for Bertha Bowman. She faced racism within the community, yet overcame it with a radiance and confidence that sprang from a rich Black heritage, the civil rights awakening, and the Second Vatican Council. Sister Thea became a worldwide evangelizer, writer, and gospel singer, challenging church leadership to consider its complicity in racism. Through her final debilitating years living with cancer, she proclaimed the gospel while bald and in a wheelchair, never diminishing her message of what it means to be Black and Catholic. Do we really need more saints? Actually, we need millions more! But let’s start with these. Let’s fight for the Six.
(This article appeared in the November issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 85, No. 11, pages 47-49) and was reprinted with permission. Visit www.uscatholic.org.)
By Rhina Guidos WASHINGTON (CNS) – Horns blared near the White House just before noon Nov. 7 as major U.S. news organizations projected Democrat Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States, making him the second Catholic in the country’s history to be elected to the nation’s highest office. “Congratulations to our second Catholic President and our first female VP of African and Indian roots!” tweeted Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, shortly after organizations such as The Associated Press, The New York Times and Fox News announced Biden and running mate Kamala Harris had won the race. The projection came following the announcement from Pennsylvania officials that Biden had won the state’s cache of 20 electoral votes, putting him over the 270 electoral-vote-threshold needed to secure a victory. Running mate Harris becomes the country’s first female vice president-elect.
Though President Donald Trump’s campaign launched legal battles over votes in some electorally rich states and made allegations of fraud in vote counting, even the president’s supporters, such as Fox News, said in a newscast after the race was called that they hadn’t seen evidence of widespread fraud. Among Catholics, news agency AP VoteCast showed they were split between the two candidates, with 50% of Catholics backing Trump and 49% Biden, with most of the support coming from Latino Catholics, the second largest ethnic group in the church, who overwhelmingly cast votes for Biden. Some Catholics said they could not support the Biden-Harris ticket because both support legalized abortion. In reaction to announcement of the Biden win, Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said the president-elect and his vice president “support radical abortion policies.” She expressed regret their administration is expected to roll back “protective legislation such as the Hyde Amendment” and support taxpayer funding of abortion. But many Catholic organizations and even some bishops were tweeting or released statements of support for Biden shortly after news of his win. Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service, who is head of the Catholic social justice lobby group Network, said Catholics had responded to the president’s divisiveness and voted for a range of issues. “Catholics are not single-issue voters,” she said in a statement. “Our community looked at the entirety of Donald Trump’s divisive and harmful record and chose to elect leaders who will govern with empathy and concern for the most marginalized. Catholics rejected racism, hatred and division and embraced the politics championed by Pope Francis – a politics of love and inclusion.” Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, also tweeted best wishes. “Congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden! We join in praying sincerely for his health and safety and that of his family,” Bishop Tobin wrote. “With the grace of Almighty God to assist and guide him, may he strive always to govern our nation with wisdom, compassion and moral integrity.” Faith-based organizations that closely work with the Catholic Church on immigration issues, such as Hope Border Institute in El Paso, voiced support for a new administration and urged the presumptive president-elect to pass comprehensive immigration reform, to stop the building of the border wall, end a policy that keeps asylum-seekers to the U.S. in Mexico as they wait for their cases to be settled in U.S. immigration courts and end family separations among migrants. In a letter the organization released Nov. 7, signed by Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director or Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, and Dylan Corbett, the institute’s executive director, they asked that special attention be given to immigrant issues along the border. “What we need now is moral leadership to bring us together and reject hate in all forms. As a fellow Catholic, we urge you to embrace the oppressed and vulnerable in our midst, who we believe are no less than the Christ knocking at our door,” the letter said. Biden was set to address the nation the evening of Nov. 7. Trump has not yet conceded the race. Instead, his campaign released a statement. “The simple fact is this election is far from over. Joe Biden has not been certified as the winner of any states,” his campaign said in a statement released Nov. 7. “Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated.” Trump had claimed victory a few hours after Election Day, telling voters at 2 a.m. on Nov. 4, “Frankly, we did win this election,” saying “we want all voting to stop,” prompting protests even from fellow Republicans who said that it wasn’t his place to make that call and that all votes needed to be counted. When he prematurely announced victory, the president also mentioned that “we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court,” over the election. But even supporters of the president and members of his party protested the comments. Mail-in votes postmarked by Election Day are accepted in several states and many are typically counted in the hours or day after the election, making it unclear what the president was referring to or what legal challenge he could possibly raise. By midday Nov. 4, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Bill Stepien, said the campaign had officially filed a lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims to halt counting of ballots until it is granted “meaningful access” to the numerous counting locations “to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process, as guaranteed by Michigan law. The “presidential race in the state remains extremely tight as we always knew it would be,” he said. Later in the day, the campaign filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Georgia and also announced it would ask for a recount in Wisconsin. Republican lawyers had already legally challenged how Pennsylvania and Nevada handled absentee votes.
By Julia Williams JACKSON – The Catholic Diocese of Jackson is once again partnering with #iGiveCatholic, kicking off the charitable season by bringing together the Catholic community to ‘give thanks and give back.’
iGiveCatholic provides a unique opportunity to support the organizations that shape our souls and make a positive impact … our parishes, schools and nonprofit ministries. In 2019, the #iGiveCatholic campaign raised more than $7.4 million from over 29,530 donors. Since its inception in 2015, almost $20 million has been raised through #iGiveCatholic.
Declared “the most successful Catholic crowdfunding event to date” by the National Catholic Register, #iGiveCatholic was originally meant to counter the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The ‘Annual Day of Giving’ is known as #GivingTuesday and is a ‘global’ day of giving back. This year’s initiative will include organizations under the umbrella of 40 Catholic Dioceses across the nation.
iGiveCatholic’s #GivingTuesday will run from 12 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 1, with the Advance Giving Day phase beginning on Nov. 16 through Nov. 30th.
Visit www.igivecatholic.org to participate in #iGiveCatholic by making a secure online donation (minimum gift of $25) to your favorite organization or cause on #GivingTuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. Offline gifts in any amount are welcome and appreciated and may be sent directly to the participating organizations. Mark your calendar and Save the Date! Your gift makes a difference. Join Catholics around the World … ‘Give Thanks, Give Back and Give Catholic!’
Editor’s note: On July 24, 1990, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States designated November as Black Catholic History Month to celebrate the long history and proud heritage of Black Catholics. In this edition, find articles and columns highlighting the rich history of the African presense in the church and a racial justice report from the diocese department of faith formation. Additionally, we will be beginning a series “From the archives” that will highlight Black History in our diocese, among other intriquing subjects. Black Catholic History is truly a gift.
By Richard Lane DETROIT – Transference of something from one place to another, or the movement of one thing to another. That is the medical definition of the word ‘gift’; an “action” or redirection of someone or something. A “gift” is also a relocation of a tendon due to a trauma or suffering, from one area to an infected area, for healing or strengthening of the weakened or affected muscle. Imagine waking up one morning as a 7-year-old child. You are happy and carefree, excited to learn more about the wonderful world you have been blessed to be born into. Your loving family cares about you and protects you unconditionally. Out of nowhere, though, someone comes and not only takes you away, but sells you into slavery at least seven times. You were given a name whose meaning is “favored/blessed/lucky.” You were forced to walk barefoot for more than 600 miles. Your innocence is stolen from you; your safety taken from you; your dignity taken from you; your childhood, your womanhood, your life stolen — and you have no idea why or how this happened. Yet your life and those after you would have a deleterious effect forever, yet you are considered to be a gift, a blessing, you are considered favored by God, but how do you understand as a mere child?
You later understand that your trauma is due to the color of your skin, which others have maimed, mutilated and tortured for reasons beyond your adolescent comprehension. Taken to a foreign land to people you have never seen, given foods you have never eaten and assigned a life you never knew existed, you are a “gift” or “blessing” to others. This is the story of one Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese Catholic saint of our church. Amid her suffering and pain, Bakhita (which means “blessing/lucky/favor” in her native tongue) saw the gift that was meant for her. She saw and encountered a transference from pain to power; from brutality to blessing; from slavery to salvation. She encountered Jesus within the Catholic Church. I ask you: Do you know the gift? In 1854, a child was born into slavery in Missouri. He was baptized and raised Catholic and at an early age encountered the “gift” that was before him in his Catholic faith. He desired not only to follow this gift but to become a “gift” to God by giving his life to the sacrament of holy orders as a priest, but he was not allowed to enter the seminary because of the color of his skin. Imagine the disappointment, hurt and pain of not being able to give your life to God totally just because of your race. Eventually sent to seminary in Rome and ordained a priest, he thought he would be sent as a missionary priest to Africa (due to the color of his skin), but was sent back to pastor a Black Catholic congregation in Quincy, Ill., where he would be known in derogatory terms using the n-word. Father Augustus Tolton became the first “gift” to the Black Catholic Church by being the first African American (Black) priest ordained for (not in) the United States. Father Tolton saw and encountered a transference from failure to freedom; from denial to destiny; from slavery to spirituality. Do you know the gift? In the fourth century AD, a man was terminated from his job as an official within the Egyptian government for being a thief and murderer. He gathered a group of 75 men who pillaged, plundered, robbed and raped throughout the Egyptian desert. This man was the biggest and baddest, the most imposing, figure of the time.
Upon coming to a monastery in the desert, he was approached by the abbot and later converted to Christianity. It took time for this marauder to come to grips with his true gift. He was able to convert the 75 criminals to join the monastery and they also became monks, yet he was not satisfied with his personal efforts. He was conflicted by his past and his present, not understanding why he was chosen, why he was considered a gift. Early one morning, a man named Isidore took him to a mountain and they sat and watched the sunrise. Isidore told him “just as it takes time for the rays of the light to break through the darkness, slowly does it take time for you to understand perfection in contemplation.” St. Moses the Black saw and encountered a transference from rape to repentance; from crime to contemplation; from murder to mystagogia. Do you know the gift? There has been a long, deep and rich history of African and African American influence in the Catholic Church. A Black presence in the Bible has been hidden and stolen from Christianity and it has only been since the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council that the church has not only identified this great gift but encouraged its celebration. From Ham, to Hagar, Cyprian to the Ethiopian eunuch, Pope Victor I to Pope Melchiades, Pope Gelasius (three Black popes) to Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, the Black heritage in the Catholic Church has been concealed. This kept Blacks, especially slaves, from knowing their history, their lineage, and their importance within the Eurocentric Catholic Christian tradition. From not allowing Blacks education, learning to read or even being considered as humans, this nation and our church were complicit in the abomination of slavery. Catholic slave owners were given permission by bishops to own slaves; in some cases, even local ordinaries owned slaves, to build their churches, forced labor for economic gains within certain dioceses. Catholic slave owners were mandated, if they owned slaves, to take them to church and allow them to “witness” Mass, but, in some instances, baptized Catholic Black slaves were denied the Eucharist due to the pigment of their skin. In 1990, the Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States saw a need for a new encounter and transference of the gift of Blacks for the church as a whole, and thus began the annual celebration of Black Catholic History Month. This month is set aside to specifically celebrate and teach the rich, deep history and contributions Blacks, those persons “of color,” and their allies have made to significantly impact the church as a whole: St. Katharine Drexel, St. Peter Claver, St. Martin de Porres, St. Maurice, St. Benedict the Moor, Sister Thea Bowman and Daniel Rudd, to name just a few.
In his address given to the Black Catholic Leadership in the United States at the Superdome in New Orleans, La., in 1987, Pope St. John Paul II spoke of the “rich cultural gifts” brought to the Catholic Church in the United States by almost 3 million Black Catholics: “Dear brothers and sisters: your black cultural heritage enriches the church and makes her witness of universality more complete. In a real way the church needs you, just as you need the church, for you are part of the church and the church is part of you. As you continue to place this heritage at the service of the whole church for the spread of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit himself will continue through you his work of evangelization.” The Black culture brings the richness of her movement, music, sounds and smells, shouts and screams, preaching and praise. It is the 150th Psalm exegetically and hermeneutically brought to life within the sacred liturgy; praising God in His Sanctuary; Praise for His acts of power and surpassing greatness; praising with sounds of musical instruments and liturgical dance. We see the ebbs and flows of an oppressed and enslaved peoples, brought free from bondages and slavery; free to worship; free to celebrate its liberation and deliverance from a systemic tyranny and oppression. The muscle of once proud and rich peoples, weakened and traumatically ripped away from their homes, lives, culture and almost their own existence, encounter a transference, a great gift … a gift by the Living God, who when encountered, provides not only a transference but a rich culture of the faith of a people, bound together by the sinews of their hopes and faith in the Promise of a God that assures His Gift of eternal salvation. Do you know the Gift?
(Richard Lane is an international Catholic speaker and founder of Richard Lane Ministries. His article appeared in the November 2020 issue of CatholicTV Monthly (Vol. 16, No. 1) and was reprinted with permission. Visit www.catholictv.org.)
Santa Barbara, mártir. Viernes, dic. 4 La Inmaculada Concepción de la Santísima Virgen María. Martes, dic. 8 San Juan Diego. Miércoles, dic. 9 Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Sábado, dic. 12 San Juan de la Cruz. Lunes, Dic 14 Natividad de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo. Viernes, dic. 25 Dia de la Sagrada Familia de Jesús, María y José. Domingo, dic. 27 Día de los Santos Inocentes. Sábado, dic. 28
In 1990 Black Catholic History month began to be celebrated in November in various parts of the United States. At the 30 year mark our Catholic people have grown to better understand that the Catholic Church in the United States and Black Catholic History are deeply intertwined.
Over the past 40 years the Bishops of the United States have produced three documents that resurrect the gift of the African American Catholic experience, and the unrelenting struggle to overcome the legacy of slavery and racism that afflict our nation and Church. Brothers and Sisters to Us 1979 — What we have Seen and Heard 1984 — Open Wide Our Hearts, The Enduring Call to Love 2018. In their 1979 document the Black Catholic bishops embraced the words of Pope Paul VI when he spoke at the Eucharistic Conference in Kampala, Uganda in 1969 – ”You must now be missionaries to yourselves, and you must give the gift of Blackness to the whole Church.”
“Do you know the gift?” is the title of the feature article by Richard Lane in the current edition of the Catholic TV Monthly. It provides, in part, a fascinating glimpse of the African presence in the church from the beginning. Three of our popes were of African origin, and Pope Melchiades held the Keys of Peter when Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 ending the nearly three centuries of brutal martyrdom. This successor of Peter needs to be front and center when we recall this watershed moment in church history. Do we know the gift?
Remember that St. Monica and her son, St. Augustine hailed from Algeria, and remain models of parental devotion and intellectual prowess. Do we know the gift?
The Black bishops in their 1984 document portray a perspective of history that is easily overlooked. “Just as the church in our history was planted by the efforts of the Spaniards, the French and the English, so did she take root among Native Americans, Black slaves and the various racial mixtures of them all. Blacks whether Spanish speaking, French speaking or English speaking, built the churches, tilled church lands, and labored with those who labored in spreading the Gospel. From the earliest period of church history in our land, we have been the hands and arms that helped build the church from Baltimore to Bradstown, from New Orleans to Los Angeles, from Saint Augustine to Saint Louis. Too often neglected and too much betrayed, our faith was witnessed by Black voices and Black tongues — such as Pierre Toussaint, Elizabeth Lange, Henriette Delille and Augustus Tolton.”
The Bishops also point out in “What We Have Seen and Heard” that Catholic dioceses and religious communities across the country for years have committed selected personnel and substantial funds to relieve oppression and to correct injustices and have striven to bring the Gospel to the diverse racial groups in our land. The church has sought to aid the poor and downtrodden, who for the most part are also the victims of racial oppression. But this relationship has been and remains two-sided and reciprocal; for the initiative of racial minorities, clinging to their Catholic faith, has helped the church to grow, adapt, and become truly Catholic and remarkably diverse. Today in our own land the face of Catholicism is the face of all humanity – a face of many colors, a countenance of many cultural forms.”
All of this resonates with the history of the Catholic faith in Mississippi, and one of our own, Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA, embodies our proud tradition. In February 2018, the Catholic Diocese of Jackson announced it has begun researching the life, writings and works of Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA, as a preliminary step in opening an official cause for sainthood.
Sister Thea’s story is well known and her amazing journey of faith from a star struck child in Holy Child School in Canton, Mississippi into the heart of the Catholic Church as a religious sister was pure grace. Her prophetic spirit, brilliant mind and boundless stamina inspired many, and became a beacon for the church to embrace more authentically the essence of Catholicity. Her suffering over the final years of her life from an incurable cancer united her to the Cross of the Lord Jesus, and served to deepen her love and her graceful spirit. Indeed, she lived until she died.
The 30th anniversary of her death was to have been celebrated with much love and fanfare, but the pandemic derailed the festivities. Nevertheless, Sister Thea was a gift to the church from the moment she set foot in Holy Child School right up to the moment when she addressed the United States Catholic Conference at Seton Hall toward the end of her life. She remains a gift in death. From a star struck child to a shooting star, her cause will be a beacon of light and hope for the church and for our nation.
Open Wide our Hearts, the Enduring Call to Love 2018 will direct the efforts of the Diocese of Jackson in the months ahead in our commitment to be faithful as disciples of the Lord Jesus. The Bishops in their 1984 document prophetically address the work of justice for which every generation must sacrifice. “The cause of justice and social concern are an essential part of evangelization. Our own history has taught us that preaching to the poor and to those who suffer injustice without concern for their plight and the systematic cause of their plight is to trivialize the Gospel and mock the cross. To preach to the powerful without denouncing oppression is to promise Easter without Calvary, forgiveness without conversion, and healing without cleansing the wound.”
May the words of the Prophet Micah burn brightly. “Do Justice, love goodness, and walk humbly with God.”
Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D. El mes de la historia de los católicos negros comenzó a celebrarse en varias partes de los Estados Unidos en noviembre de 1990. Después de 30 años, nuestro pueblo católico ha llegado a comprender mejor que la Iglesia Católica en los Estados Unidos y la Historia de los Católicos Negros están profundamente entrelazadas. Durante los últimos 40 años, los obispos de los Estados Unidos han producido tres documentos que resucitan el don de la experiencia católica afroamericana y la lucha incansable para superar el legado de esclavitud y racismo que afligen a nuestra nación e Iglesia. “Nuestros Hermanos y Hermanas” (Brothers and Sisters to Us) — 1979; “Lo que hemos visto y oído” (What we have Seen and Heard) — 1984 “Abrir de par en par nuestros corazones, el perdurable llamado al amor” (Open Wide Our Hearts, The Enduring Call to Love) — 2018.
En su documento de 1979, los obispos católicos negros abrazaron las palabras del Papa Pablo VI cuando habló en la Conferencia Eucarística en Kampala, Uganda en 1969 – “Ahora deben ser misioneros para con ustedes mismos y deben dar el don de la negritud a toda la Iglesia”. “¿Conoces el regalo?” es el título del artículo principal de Richard Lane en la edición mensual de Catholic TV. Este proporciona, en parte, una visión fascinante de la presencia africana en la Iglesia desde el principio. Tres de nuestros papas eran de origen africano, y el Papa Melquíades tenía las llaves de Pedro cuando Constantino emitió el Edicto de Milán en 313, poniendo fin a los casi tres siglos de brutal martirio. Este sucesor de Pedro debe estar al frente y al centro cuando recordamos este momento decisivo en la historia de la Iglesia. ¿Conocemos el regalo? Recuerde que Santa Mónica y su hijo, San Agustín provenían de Argelia, y siguen siendo modelos de devoción paterna y destreza intelectual. ¿Conocemos el regalo? Los obispos negros en su documento de 1984 retratan una perspectiva de la historia que fácilmente se pasa por alto. “Así como la Iglesia en nuestra historia fue plantada por los esfuerzos de los españoles, los franceses y los ingleses, también echó raíces entre los nativos americanos, los esclavos negros y las diversas mezclas raciales de todos ellos. Los negros, ya fueran de habla hispana, de habla francesa o de habla inglesa, construyeron las iglesias, cultivaron las tierras de las iglesias y trabajaron con aquellos que trabajaron en la difusión del Evangelio. Desde el período más temprano de la historia de la iglesia en nuestra tierra, hemos sido las manos y los brazos que ayudaron a construir la iglesia desde Baltimore hasta Bradstown, desde Nueva Orleans hasta Los Ángeles, desde San Agustín hasta San Luis. Con demasiada frecuencia descuidada y demasiado traicionada, nuestra fe fue atestiguada por voces y lenguas negras, como Pierre Toussaint, Elizabeth Lange, Henriette Delille y Augustus Tolton.” Los obispos en su documento “Lo que hemos visto y oído” también señalan que las diócesis católicas y las comunidades religiosas de todo el país durante años han “comprometido un personal selecto y fondos sustanciales para aliviar la opresión y corregir las injusticias y se han esforzado por llevar el Evangelio a los diversos grupos raciales en nuestra tierra. La iglesia ha buscado ayudar a los pobres y oprimidos, quienes en su mayor parte también son víctimas de la opresión racial. Pero esta relación ha sido y sigue siendo bilateral y recíproca; porque la iniciativa de las minorías raciales de aferrarse a su fe católica ha ayudado a la iglesia a crecer, adaptarse y volverse verdaderamente católica y notablemente diversa. “Hoy en nuestra propia tierra, el rostro del catolicismo es el rostro de toda la humanidad: un rostro de muchos colores, un rostro de muchas formas culturales.” Todo esto resuena con la historia de la fe católica en Mississippi, y una de las nuestras, la hermana Thea Bowman, FSPA, quien encarna nuestra orgullosa tradición. En febrero de 2018, la Diócesis Católica de Jackson anunció que había comenzado a investigar la vida, los escritos y las obras de la hermana Thea Bowman, FSPA, como un paso preliminar para abrir una causa oficial para la santidad. La historia de la hermana Thea es bien conocida y su increíble viaje de fe, desde una niña deslumbrada en la escuela Holy Child School en Canton, Mississippi hasta el corazón de la Iglesia católica como hermana religiosa fue pura gracia. Su espíritu profético, mente brillante y resistencia ilimitada inspiraron a muchos y se convirtieron en un faro para que la iglesia abrazara más auténticamente la esencia del catolicismo. Su sufrimiento durante los últimos años de su vida por un cáncer incurable la unió a la Cruz del Señor Jesús y sirvió para profundizar su amor y su espíritu lleno de gracia. De hecho, vivió hasta que murió. El trigésimo aniversario de su muerte se iba a celebrar con mucho amor y fanfarria, pero la pandemia descarriló las festividades. Sin embargo, la hermana Thea fue un regalo para la iglesia desde el momento en que puso un pie en Holy Child School, al día en que se dirigió a la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos en Seton Hall hasta el final de su vida. Ella sigue siendo un regalo aun por su muerte. De una niña deslumbrada a ser una estrella fugaz, su causa será un faro de luz y esperanza para la Iglesia y nuestra nación. “Abrir de par en par nuestros corazones, el perdurable llamado al amor” de 2018 dirigirá los esfuerzos de la Diócesis de Jackson en los próximos meses en nuestro compromiso de ser fieles discípulos del Señor Jesús. Los obispos en su documento de 1984 abordan proféticamente la obra de justicia por la que cada generación debe sacrificarse. “La causa de la justicia y la preocupación social son parte esencial de la evangelización. Nuestra propia historia nos ha enseñado que predicar a los pobres y a los que sufren injusticias sin preocuparse por su situación y la causa sistemática de su situación es trivializar el Evangelio y burlarse de la cruz. Predicar a los poderosos sin denunciar la opresión es prometer Pascua sin Calvario, perdón sin conversión y curación sin limpiar la herida.” Que las palabras del profeta Miqueas ardan con fuerza. “Haz justicia, ama el bien y camina humildemente con Dios”.
By Junno Arocho Esteves VATICAN CITY (CNS) – After the Vatican released its extensive report on Theodore E. McCarrick, Pope Francis renewed the Catholic Church’s pledge to uproot the scourge of sexual abuse. Before concluding his weekly general audience Nov. 11, the pope made his first public statement on the release of the report regarding the “painful case” of the former cardinal. “I renew my closeness to all victims of every form of abuse and the church’s commitment to eradicate this evil,” he said. After reading his brief comment on the report, the pope bowed his head and closed his eyes in silent prayer. The 460-page report, which was published by the Vatican Nov. 10, chronicled McCarrick’s rise through the church’s hierarchal ranks despite decades of accusations of sexual abuse and abuse of power. Before his comment on the report, the pope continued his series of audience talks on prayer, reflecting on the importance of perseverance. He began by saying he was told by someone that he “speaks too much about prayer” and that it was unnecessary. However, he said, “it is necessary, because if we do not pray, we will not have the strength to go forward in life. Prayer is like the oxygen of life; prayer draws upon us the Holy Spirit who always carries us forward. That is why I speak so much about prayer.” Jesus taught people to engage in “constant dialogue” with God not only with the example of his own prayer, but also with parables that highlighted the importance of perseverance in prayer. Reflecting on Jesus’ parable of the tenacious person who knocks unceasingly at his friend’s door asking for bread, the pope said that unlike the friend who relents after constant insistence, God “is more patient with us and the person who knocks with faith and perseverance on the door of his heart will not be disappointed.” Jesus’ parable of the widow who persistently sought and eventually obtained justice from an unscrupulous judge, he continued, serves as a reminder that faith “is not a momentary choice but a courageous disposition to call on God, even to ‘argue’ with him, without resigning oneself to evil and injustice.” Finally, the parable of the Pharisee who boasted his merits during prayer while the publican feels unworthy to enter the temple reveals that “there is no true prayer without humility,” he said. Pope Francis said the Gospel encourages Christians to pray always, “even when everything seems in vain, when God appears to be deaf and mute and it seems we are wasting time.” “There are many days of our life when faith seems to be an illusion, a sterile exertion,” the pope said. “But the practice of prayer means accepting even this exertion. Many saints experienced the night of faith and God’s silence, and they were persevering.” True Christians, the pope added, do not fear anything but instead “entrust themselves to the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us a gift and who prays with us.”
When Jesus teaches something in the Gospel, do we take notes? Do you apply His words to the way we live our lives? We say that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and therefore is God Himself, but do we take what He says in the Gospel seriously?
Take Matthew 19. Jesus tells his listeners that he is calling for an understanding of the marriage covenant that goes beyond a civil contract. He raises marriage to the dignity of a sacrament and thus says that the old Jewish understanding of divorce is no longer valid. But later on in the chapter, Jesus goes even further. He states that some are called to forgo marriage “for the sake of the Kingdom of God,” and then he makes the stakes even higher, saying “whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” (Matthew 19:12)
When we think about vocations to the priesthood and religious life, do we ever think about this clear teaching of Jesus. He is calling some to forgo the goodness of marriage to point people toward the Kingdom of God, and yet don’t we often see the call to celibacy as the rare “exception to the rule,” or something to consider after other goals have been accomplished or other more pressing questions about our lives and futures have been answered?
It is true that marriage to another is a natural desire of our hearts, but I challenge all those who profess the faith to really examine the way they see the possibility that they, or someone they love are being called to an incredible life, a life of fruitfulness not in a marriage bond, but in a deep, life giving relationship with the church.
God wants to give us many great leaders who can build up the church as spiritual fathers and mothers, begetting and protecting the many souls entrusted to them, and courageously pointing the laity toward the Kingdom when things seem most desperate, when tragedy has struck, or when temporal leadership has let them down. But we won’t have that great stock of leadership if we don’t take the words of Jesus extremely seriously. Jesus doesn’t say, well, those who don’t want to get married for some reason or who have exhausted all other options should think about doing this. No, he wants the very best potential husbands and fathers and wives and mothers to answer the call if they receive it. He wants the most talented and gifted among us to use their gifts for the church in ordained ministry or consecrated life if he calls them to it.
In order to answer the call, however, one must be open to it, he or she must be listening. Please encourage young men and women in your midst to be open to this call and help them to be open to the call by talking about it and learning about it yourself. Parents, help your children and teach them this lesson that Jesus gives us in the Gospel. We must shift the way in which the church sees the call to priesthood and religious life. We should give God our best, our first shot. We should all open the way to this call in our hearts, then if we don’t receive it, we can joyfully pursue a life-giving married life. Think of the gifts that would be brought to bear in our parishes and our diocese if all of us took the teachings of Jesus seriously, and were open to whatever the Lord called us to. “Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”
(Fr. Nick travels a lot, but he puts his homilies on the internet for those who would like to hear them! Go to www.jacksonpriests.com/podcasts each Sunday evening to listen. You can also find out all you want to know about our Vocation office at www.jacksonpriests.com.)