A statue of St. Martin de Porres in the chapel of the house where the saint was born in Lima, Peru, in 1579. CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY
A litany of prayer for Black Catholic History Month
BY F. VERONICA WILHITE, SPECIAL TO THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
As we enter the month of November, Catholics observe multiple holy days including “All Saints Day” (Nov. 1), “All Souls Day” (Nov. 2) and the feast day of St. Martin de Porres (Nov. 3), currently the only Black saint from the Americas. These days honor those who exemplified holiness by living out the Gospel, whether canonized or not, and those who have passed on, who were loved or not, but for whose souls we pray.
During this year’s Black Catholic History Month, I would ask that you especially remember in prayer all of the Blacks throughout the world who have suffered death under heinous circumstances for racial or religious reasons.
Let us pray for the departed souls of the Black faithful of the Americas, such as those captured in Africa and who died in chains in the bowels of the slave ships or who embraced death over slavery; those lynched by racist mobs and the Ku Klux Klan; those runaway slaves who were captured and killed. May they now rest in peace.
Let us pray for those who survived slavery and for their progeny who embrace their faith in God and continue to live out the Gospel, despite institutional racist impediments to justice and fair treatment.
Let us pray for our Haitian brothers and sisters, many of whom have embraced the Catholic faith (55% of the population is Catholic, according to a 2018 international religious freedom report by the U.S. government) and who continue to suffer from poverty, violence and persecution without adequate support.
This litany of special prayer for Blacks would be incomplete lest we focus on the imminent needs of those currently in peril, such as those Haitian refugees attempting to enter the United States to escape the turbulence in their nation. We must cry out for justice, human dignity and Christian compassion for these displaced people. As Catholics we claim to be pro-life from conception to natural death. This includes working for justice, equal opportunity, fairness, protection of rights of these who are marginalized by society.
Let us celebrate this month of Black Catholic History in prayer for one another and gaining knowledge of the significance of inclusion, justice and mercy, taking seriously Micah’s call “to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8) and Isaiah’s command to “seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, [and] plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17).
Please remember to continue to pray for the causes of Black American candidates for sainthood: Venerable Pierre Toussaint, a Haitian refugee and Catholic Charities legacy; Venerable Henriette DeLille, S.S.F., foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family; Venerable Augustus Tolton, first Black U.S. priest; Servant of God Mother Mary Lange, a Haitian refugee and foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence; Servant of God Thea Bowman, a religious sister, teacher and scholar; and Servant of God Julia Greeley, a philanthropist and convert to Catholicism in Denver, Colo.
Black ‘Living Saints’ of our diocese
Last year, the Office of Black Catholic Ministry requested submissions of names of Black “living saints” from our diocese, living and deceased, for 2021 Black Catholic History Month. The following names were submitted. (Please note + indicates a deceased person.)
Robert Hagan+ (Owensboro)
Levi Peterson (Hopkinsville)
Fannie Mae Miles+ (Owensboro)
Eunice Taylor (Owensboro)
Charles Smith+ (Waverly)
Ina Sowell+ (Paducah)
Rose Lowery (Paducah)
Charlene Meadows (Owensboro)
We encourage readers, pastors and parishes to submit more names of Black Catholics whom you would like to see featured as “living saints.” Submit names to email@example.com.
Two books, written by Catholic priests, which address the realities of Blacks and the Catholic Church:
- “Racial Justice and the Catholic Church” (2010), by Fr. Bryan Massingale, a Black Catholic professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University in New York
- “The History of Black Catholics in the United States” (1990), by Fr. Cyprian Davis, OSB, a Black Catholic monk, priest, historian and professor of Church history at St. Meinrad School of Theology
Read the press release from the National Association of Black Catholic Administrators regarding treatment of Haitian refugees on the U.S.-Mexico border: https://nabcacatholic.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Haiti.pressrelease.2021.pdf
F. Veronica Wilhite is the director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry for the Diocese of Owensboro. Learn more at owensborodiocese.org/black-catholic-ministry.
Originally printed in the November 2021 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.