November is Black Catholic History Month

Time to reflect, learn and celebrate

In my school, we have a small display board dedicated to Black Catholic history. One of the items on the board is the biography of the Pope Victor I. Pope Victor I was the 14th Bishop of Rome and the first from Africa. In fact, there are three popes who are African, the other two being Pope Militiades who reigned from 311 to 314 A.D. and Pope Gelasius who reigned from 492 until 496 A.D. Out of all of the facts on this board, the fact that there have been Black Pontiffs seems to gain the most interest – and sometimes, disbelief.

Black Catholic History in the Archdiocese of Washington

I was blessed to grow up in the Archdiocese of Washington. We have had a strong and vibrant Black Catholic culture here for generations and thus, the  ethnicity of Pope Victor I is not incredible to me. We have parishes dating back to before the Civil War such as St. Augustine Roman Catholic Parish, which was founded in 1858. We have the examples of pioneering Black priests such as Rev. Patrick Healy, SJ (pictured above) who served as the president of Georgetown University from 1874 until 1882. Even the first Black permanent deacons where ordained for the Archdiocese of Washington as part of the inaugural class in early 1970’s. Growing up here, I knew that there had been Popes of African decent, parishes where our culture and style of worship is integrated into the Mass and priests, deacons and religious that continue to serve our community with passion and love.

More to come

For the next few posts, I hope to share some of these facts and stories with you. I may also share how these stories have helped me to celebrate the diversity of the Roman Catholic Church.