St. Thomas More Cathedral in Arlington was filled with moving Christian hymns and stories from famous black Catholics during a prayer service on November 5 titled “Celebrating the Diversity of the Fellowship of Saints: Black Catholics on the path to holiness ”.
As part of the prayer service, members of the Diocese of Arlington took turns sharing the stories of saints and those on the path to holiness: St. Peter Claver, St. Martin de Porres; Saint Catherine Drexel; Venerable Pierre Toussaint; Venerable Henriette Delille; the Venerable Father Augustus Tolton; Servant of God Mother Mary Lange; Servant of God Julia Greeley; and sister Thea Bowman.
“And if we do the same, then the fruits will be a very vibrant, faith-filled, service-oriented united diocese, as well as parishes, schools and communities free from any form of racism, bias or discrimination. ” – Bishop Michael F. Burbidge
“These are our powerful intercessors,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge. “They help us show us the way to heaven and teach us how to become a saint. “
He said members of the Diocesan Advisory Council on Racism have ensured that two important goals are part of the Diocese of Arlington’s recently announced strategic plan: to improve recruitment efforts for vocations from all diocesan communities, and to celebrate ethnic richness and promote engagement between communities.
“We have to do a better job” in attracting more diverse vocations, Bishop Burbidge said, “and help tonight.” He added: “I pray very hard” that young black Catholics discerning the will of God will be inspired by the stories of these saints to embrace religious life.
The second goal was at the heart of the prayer service, he added.
“We celebrate the unity, the universality of the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”
Black Catholic saints and those on the path to holiness should be an inspiration to all who undertake their earthly pilgrimage, Bishop Burbidge said.
“They were peacemakers. They were gentle. They were humble. They were pure in heart. They suffered for their faith but did not give up on it. They cried, but they did not give up hope. They loved God with all their heart, soul, strength and spirit. And they loved their neighbor as themselves.
“And if we do the same,” he added, “then the fruits will be a very dynamic, faith-filled, service-oriented, united diocese as well as parishes, schools and communities without any form of faith. racism, bias or discrimination. Through the intercession of Mary our Mother and of Saint Joseph, the saints and future saints that we remember tonight, may this be the reality here in this diocese at this exciting time in our history and always. Amen. “
Reflecting on the prayer service, leaders of the diocesan ministry of Black Catholics said it was an important step in ensuring people across the diocese learn more about these inspiring Catholics.
“It is education for everyone to better understand all those who have made a significant contribution to our church,” said Jerry Cousin, a parishioner from Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville who chairs the Black Catholic Ministry group.
“We must all come to prayer with open hearts and minds so that we can see the good in each of us,” he said. “We are all children of God. “
“We all need to know each other’s legacy,” said Beverly Carroll, parishioner of Holy Family Church in Dale City and vice-chair of the panel.
These characters in black Catholic history “have all done such wonderful things,” she said. Carroll is inspired by the obstacles they’ve overcome.
“They never gave up,” she said. “They loved the Lord and they loved the people. And that’s what people have to come back to.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Catholic Ministry launched a regular virtual rosary in response to blockages that have curtailed in-person worship. Over the past 20 months, prayer sessions have multiplied and have drawn worshipers from Tennessee, California and even Germany. Rosaries are open to all parishes in the diocese, Carroll said.
Towards the end of the prayer service, Cousin announced that the next ministry event will be a celebration in January of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Another gathering is also scheduled for next November to commemorate Black Catholic History Month.
“Dear friends, as we hear these powerful stories, we see that in every age of darkness, evil, sin, and rejection of the gospel, God is raising up holy men and women to be a source of ‘inspiration for all,’ Bishop Burbidge said in his concluding remarks, before embarking on a catchy rendition of the closing hymn, “When the Saints Go Marching In”.
Find out more
To join the Black Catholic Ministry Virtual Rosary Prayer Group, contact the Office of Multicultural Ministries and Diocesan Events at 703 / 841-3881 or [email protected]