When I was in parish ministry, our faith community was gradually becoming more ethnically diverse. When a nearby parish was closed and merged into our parish, a small but vibrant community of Black Catholics added to the richness of our diversity. While making plans to welcome our new parish members, I realized that not one of the images of saints in our church and parish center were people of color! For All Saints Day that year, our parish purchased and blessed six icons of saints of color that were processed into the church and placed in prominent locations to reflect the diversity of our community.
With All Saints Day quickly coming upon us, I recommend focusing attention on the diversity of saints that our church celebrates. In particular, presently six Black Catholics are on the road to sainthood: Venerable Pierre Toussaint, Venerable Henriette Delille, Venerable Augustus Tolton, Servant of God Mary Lange, Servant of God Julia Greeley, and Servant of God Thea Bowman.
I had the privilege of hearing Sr. Thea Bowman speak in the mid-1980s at an event in Chicago called “Jesus Day,” and I remember her proclaiming, “They’re calling today Jesus Day? Every day is Jesus Day!” My friend Michael Howard (Eat the Scrolls Ministry) tells of his experience of witnessing Sr. Thea “dancing and joyfully expressing her love for God at a National Black Catholic Congress in Washington, D.C.” and how that experience freed him to express his love for God as if “the shackles were removed from my feet to dance spontaneously.” Read more of Michael’s personal reflections on Servant of God Thea Bowman here.
Take advantage of this moment in Church history, when such a significant number of Black Catholics are on the road to sainthood, to share their stories as well as the stories of many other saints who exemplify the diversity of our Church. Here are some examples to assist you:
- Saint Josephine Bakhita
- Saint Paul Miki and Companions
- Saint Miguel Febres Cordero
- Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero
- Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions
- Venerable Pierre Toussaint
- Blessed Peter To Rot
- Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
- Saints Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang, and Companions
- Saint Martin de Porres
- Blessed Miguel Agustín Pro
- Saint Juan Diego
Be sure to check out the many resources Loyola Press offers for All Saints Day! And come back tomorrow for an activities pack about the Black Catholics on the road to sainthood.