Today we begin the month long celebration of Black Catholic History Month. November was so designated by the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus in 1990, to celebrate the proud heritage of Black Catholics. Two important dates fall within this month, Saint Augustine's Birthday (November 13) and Saint Martin de Porres' Feast Day (November 3). November not only marks a time when we pray for all saints and souls in loving remembrance, but also a time to recall the saints and souls of Africa and the African Diaspora.
There is a rich history of Black Catholicism in the St. Louis Archdiocese. Black Catholics are recorded in St. Louis as early as 1799 with baptisms at the Old Cathedral of free Negroes and Mullatos. A number of priests, sisters, and committed laity served this neglected portion of Christ’s flock. Among these was Father William Markoe, SJ, who, aided by St. Katharine Drexel’s Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and the Divine Word Fathers, opened St. Nicholas Parish for the care of blacks. Later, St. Elizabeth’s Parish opened at Cook and Taylor, also to welcome black Catholics. In 1937 the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, with the help of Father Patrick J. Molloy, courageously opened a high school, St. Joseph, for black youth.
Fr. Augustin Paris organized a school for black Catholic girls in 1845 at 3rd and Poplar, most of who were daughters of free blacks, but closed the following year under the pressure of the controversy over educating African-Americans.
In 1941 St. Alphonsus parish purchased a twenty-two room mansion on Finney Avenue and converted it into a chapel and classrooms, St. Clements, for Black Catholics and asked the Oblate Sisters of Providence to teach there. St. Clements closed after the 1947-48 school year when Archbishop Ritter directed all Catholics, regardless of race, to attend the church and school closest to their home.
We celebrate the gift of Black Catholicism to the Catholic Church as we remember those who have gone before us and on whose shoulders we stand.
PS: Reminder to bring your attendance prize donations to the office – new items valued at least $20. Also sell your raffle tickets – Fr. Rick is asking each parishioner to sell at least ten (10) tickets. And don’t forget to join us for Fun! Food! And Frivolity at the 2014 Card Party!