November is Black Catholic History Month

Watch the film online We Came A Long Way By Faith: Catholic Hill and St. James the Greater Catholic ChurchThis film focuses on early Catholicism in South Carolina, slavery, the history of St. James the Greater and its importance to the Catholic Hill Community.

The Subcommittee Mandate

The Subcommittee on African American Affairs (SCAAA) is the official voice of the African American Catholic community. The subcommittee attends to the needs and aspirations of African American Catholics regarding issues of pastoral ministry, evangelization, social justice, worship, development of leaders and other areas of concern. The subcommittee also seeks to be a source for the all Bishops and the entire Catholic Church in the United States. It aims to articulate the socio-cultural dimension of the African American Catholic community and identify or create resources that would allow for an authentic integration of the richness of African American Catholic culture and the Catholic Church in the United States.

Reflection by Most Reverend Joseph N. Perry

Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Chicago: Vicar for Vicariate VI, Chairman of the Subcommittee on African American Affairs

Who Will Go Before Us?

From a variety of sources we are daily treated to stories of people who have come through some awful encounters in life, people who took great risks to grab on to something or someone they were willing to die for. We gaze at these people wondering how they were able to do what they did. They appear in instances larger than life. As is often quoted, “history is none other than a collection of stories about man’s inhumanity to man!”

We become transfixed, wide-eyed in face of the unimaginable wondering if we could do the same, muster similar courage and perseverance to do the same in face of life’s challenges and tragedies of one sort of another. I like to think that we could do the same. Nobility of character is not a benefit of just a few. The seeds of heroism lay deep within all of us. The lives of our ancestors offer chapters of inspiration on how to make life this side of heaven indeed worthwhile. Indeed, life is always on a learning curve through joy and sorrow. Augustus Tolton {1854-1897} is one such example of a courageous soul.

I wonder too about the younger generations, whether today’s millennials can endure what our forbearers endured to arrive at a maturity of faith and spirit with their love and hope intact while having something to pass on to the generations following after them.

Here and there we hear young people say they could never or would never tolerate what our ancestors did in the name of race denunciation and disrespect, the physical desecration of their bodies and the destruction of their spirits. I want to respect their resolve but also want to stop them in their tracks with such utterances. True, contemporary generations have not had to fight for freedom and without having been plummeted in the streets so many of the young these days demand rights they have never had to fight for.

Rustling up some hopeful thoughts about it all, I like to think that today’s youth are cutting themselves short of their true abilities if and when they are thrown the onslaughts of hatred and disrespect and such, unfortunately, they will encounter. Fact is, previous generations not only risked their lives but gave up their lives for our future and the future of this present generation and generations to come.

We discount the experiences of those who have gone before us at our peril. We ignore their histories at our own peril. Let us not forget, let us appeal eagerly to the narratives of the past, let us recite the narratives of the ancestors for the ears and hearts of the children of this generation. Their stories are terribly religious in nature not just patriotic and, God forbid, not just self-serving.

Father Augustus Tolton left for us the gift of his perseverance, his faith in God and a devoted life as a priest. We honor his legacy and that of others like him if we can pass it to the younger generations to honor God by doing similar.

Let us raise up our young people for their gifts and their spirit. Let us remind the youth of our communities about the nobility of character that lies within them. God knows we need them to chart a better way for all of us going forward.

Subcommittee Members

Reflections on the Movement for Black Lives (BLM)

The resources which follow are a series of four articles on the expression “Black Lives Matter” provided by the Subcommittee on African American Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. These articles do not claim to be a definitive statement on this matter. They are posted in the hope of providing background information which might help clarify what sometimes can be a controversial topic and serve as a stepping stone toward further reflection and dialogue on the important matter of racial justice...read more.