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For I was hungry and you gave Me food...I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink...

"As often as you did it to one of the least of My brothers and sisters,  you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:40)​

I was sick and you looked after Me...

Timeline of Black Catholic history

By Cyprian Davis  |  Published 07/2008

1565-1899: St. Augustine, Florida 
Blacks, both slave and free, help to found this oldest town in the United States. In 1693 Spain offers freedom in Florida to slaves who convert to Catholicism. Until 1763, these freed slaves live in a community northeast of St. Augustine. Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, or Fort Mose, established in 1738, thus becomes the first free black town in the United States.

1781: Los Angeles
Governor Don Felipe de Neve recruits 11 families to settle on the Porciuncula River--now Los Angeles. The settlers are all Catholic, a mix of Africans, Spanish, and American Indians. Meanwhile, Maryland's black Catholic population grows to 3,000 as a result of Jesuit evangelization in the region.

1829: Oblate Sisters of Providence
A handful of women from Baltimore's Haitian refugee colony begin to educate local children in their homes. With the support of the archbishop, in 1829 they create the Oblate Sisters of Providence. The first superior is Elizabeth Lange, born in Cuba of Haitian parents. A later archbishop dismisses the need for an order of black religious, but the sisters find new advocates among the Redemptorists and in Saint John Neumann, then archbishop of Philadelphia. Their ministry spreads to Philadelphia and New Orleans.

1839: In Supremo Apostolatus 
In this 1839 apostolic letter, Pope Gregory XVI condemns the slave trade as the "inhuman traffic in Negroes." Rome outshines the U.S. in race relations from the 17th to 20th centuries. Many U.S. bishops as well as men's and women's religious orders in this period own slaves, sometimes advocating for their proper treatment. Bishop John England of Charleston, South Carolina defends the American domestic slave trade, arguing that Pope Gregory's apostolic letter refers only to slaves imported by the Spanish and Portuguese. Though claiming he is not personally in favor of slavery, he says it was a "question for the legislature and not for me."

1842: Sisters of the Holy Family 
Founded by Henriette Delille and Juliette Gaudin in New Orleans, the Sisters of the Holy Family become the second religious order for black women. Biracial and of African descent, the founders are free people of color, at that time a separate class and culture above the slaves. The order ministers to poor blacks, educating and tending the sick. This follows an earlier attempt by Frenchwoman Marie Aliquot to start the Sisters of the Presentation, soon dissolved for violating Louisiana's segregation laws because the white Aliquot sought black women to join her. Aliquot is not allowed to join the new Sisters of the Holy Family because she is white. During an outbreak of yellow fever, the nuns heroically nurse the sick and are thus granted public recognition. But they are not allowed to wear their habit in public until 1872.

1766-1853: Pierre Toussaint
Arriving in New York from Haiti in 1787 with his owner, Jean Berard, Pierre Toussaint is apprenticed to a New York hairdresser. He becomes a friend to the city's aristocracy by dressing the hair of wealthy women. When Berard dies penniless, Toussaint financially supports Berard's wife, nursing her through emotional and physical ailments. She grants him his freedom in 1807. His stable income allows him to buy freedom for his sister and his future wife, and to be generous with many individuals and charities, including an orphanage and school for black children. He cares for the ill when yellow fever sweeps the city and opens his home to homeless youth, teaching them violin and paying for their schooling. A case for his beatification has since been opened in Rome. He would be the first black American saint.

1875: James Augustine Healy,
​First Black Bishop

Although James Healy and his nine siblings--all fathered by a Georgia plantation owner--are officially slaves, their father brings them north for education and freedom. Three of the Healy brothers--James, Patrick, and Alexander--become the first African American priests in the U.S., although they do not identify with being black and never speak out on behalf of blacks. Bishop John Fitzpatrick of Boston, a friend of their father, encourages the boys to attend Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts. James studies for the priesthood in Paris and is ordained bishop of Portland, Maine in 1875. His brother, Patrick Francis Healy, a Jesuit who conceals his African origins for much of his career, becomes president of George-town University in 1874 (ironic because Georgetown admitted no black students until the mid-1900s). James would not ally himself with black Catholic leaders nor agree to address meetings of black Catholics, once citing Saint Paul's admonition that there shall be no Greek nor Jew in Christ.

1889: Daniel Rudd Calls Black Catholic Congress
In January 1889 almost 100 black Catholic men meet with President Grover Cleveland on the last day of the first black Catholic lay congress in U.S. history. Daniel Rudd, a journalist from Ohio and founder of the American Catholic Tribune, becomes a leader of black laity. Fiercely proud of the Catholic Church, Rudd claims the church is the one place of hope for black people. Rudd recruits delegates to the first Black Catholic Congress, hoping to "let them exchange views on questions affecting their race; then uniting on a course of action, behind which would stand the majestic Church of Christ." The delegates' statement calls for Catholic schools for black children, endorses temperance, appeals to labor unions to admit blacks, advocates better housing, and praises religious orders for aiding blacks. Rudd also helps organize the first lay Catholic congress of the entire U.S. in 1889, where he insists that blacks be treated as part of the whole, not as a special category.
At the fourth Black Catholic Congress in 1893, Charles Butler decries prejudice and discrimination within the Catholic Church, asking, "How long, O Lord, are we to endure this hardship in the house of our friends?" The congress calls attention to the church's failure in its mission "to raise up the downtrodden and to rebuke the proud."
Thus black Catholics made the social implications of Catholicism into a primary feature of the faith, a new and bold approach for the time.

1909: Knights of Peter Claver 
The fraternity of the Knights of Peter Claver is established by the work of Josephite priests as a parallel to the Knights of Columbus. It soon develops chapters for women and young people.

1916: Committee for the Advancement of Colored Catholics
Led by Thomas Wyatt Turner, the Committee for the Advancement of Colored Catholics forms during World War I to care for black Catholic sevicemen, neglected by both the Knights of Columbus and the black YMCA. After the war, the group broadens its focus. Its advocacy gives birth to a new national forum for black Catholics. Its purpose: "Collection of data concerning colored Catholics, the protection of their interests, the promotion of their welfare, and the propagation of the faith among colored people." The U.S. bishops, despite requests from Rome to act on behalf of blacks during the race riots and lynchings of 1919, avoid the topic at their first annual meeting.
In response, the committee publicly urges the bishops to denounce discrimination and consult with black Catholics, saying, "at present we are neither a part of the colored world (Protestant), nor are we generally treated as full-fledged Catholics."

1916: Handmaids of Mary
The Georgia state legislature introduces a bill prohibiting whites from teaching black students. Although the law eventually fails, a community of black sisters is formed to teach. In 1922 the sisters relocate to New York where they start a soup kitchen and begin educating local children.
In 1929 they affiliate with the Franciscan Third Order, becoming the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary. Still active in Harlem, their ministries have spread elsewhere in the United States.

1920: First Seminary for Blacks
The Society of the Divine Word in Greenville, Mississippi, with the blessing of Pope Benedict XV, opens St. Augustine's, the first seminary for blacks. Some American bishops are still not convinced of the merit of a black priesthood.

1958: Denunciation of Racism 
American bishops denounce racial prejudice as immoral for the first time.

1965: March in Selma 
Many Catholic clergy and women religious join the march in Selma, Alabama, marking the church's foray into the civil rights struggle for racial equality.

1968: First Black Clergy Caucus
Prior to the meeting of the Catholic Clergy Conference on the Interracial Apostolate in 1968, Father Herman Porter of the Rockford, Illinois diocese invites all U.S. black Catholic clergy to a special caucus. More than 60 black clergy gather to discuss the racial crisis and decide to form a permanent organization. They send a statement to the bishops strongly criticizing the church but clear in its expression of their devotion and hope. It lists nine demands for the church to be faithful in its mission to blacks and to restore the church within the black community. The caucus is active today.

1985: Today's Black Catholic Congresses
The National Black Catholic Congress is re-established in 1985 as a coalition of black Catholic organizations. In 1987, NBCC renews the tradition of gathering black Catholics from across the country. The first renewed congress, Congress VI (the first five took place in the 1800s), takes place in May of 1987 in Washington, D.C. NBCC holds a national congress every five years, and each event attracts growing numbers of attendees. Congress IX is August 29-September 1 in Chicago.

Source: The History of Black Catholics in the United States, by Cyprian Davis (Crossroad). 

Note: Congress XII was held this past July 2017 in Orlando, Florida.

In the early hours of Sunday, Sept. 9, 1739, 20 enslaved black men gathered near a bridge over the Stono River, southwest of Charles Town (now Charleston), S.C., where they were part of a work gang building a public road. Most of them, including their leader, Jemmy, appear to have been among the 8,000 Kikongo speakers from the Angola region of central Africa brought on slave ships over the previous five years, mainly to work in the rice fields. By the late 1730s, South Carolina, once the most backward colony in the British Empire, had become a dynamic, expanding and profitable plantation society.

It was also the first black-majority colony in North America, more closely resembling the Caribbean than New England, the middle colonies or even the smaller-scale slave society of Virginia. By 1739, blacks outnumbered whites 2-to-1 in South Carolina. In pursuit of their own happiness—the significant profits to be made—a small group of white planters drove their black labor force to endure long hours of backbreaking labor in the rice fields. The arduous work of clearing woods and swamps to build roads was grueling, but, significantly, that morning in 1739 the road gang appears to have been poorly guarded. There was no white overseer present, since slaves were sometimes allowed to work for themselves on Sundays. Perhaps a trusted slave—maybe even Jemmy himself—had been left in charge. Read more...


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Saturday, November 18th, 6:00 PM-9:00 PM

24th Annual Bishop James Augustine Healy Award Dinner
This dinner will honor Tchintcia Barros, the 2017 Bishop James Augustine Healy Award Recipient and Sr. Joyce McMullen, SND and Sr. Christine Smith, SBS, Award Recipients of the 2017 Robert L. Ruffin Award. Sr. Marcia Hall, O.S.P. will be the guest speaker.
$65.00 per person. Deadline for reservations is Wednesday, November 6, 2017. African Attire or Black Tie. To reserve your space, go to:

Sunday, November 19th beginning at 3:00 PM
Annual Diocesan African Heritage Celebration
Join us for the Annual Diocesan African Heritage Celebration, sponsored by the Diocese of Raleigh Office of African Ancestry Ministry and Evangelization to be held at the 
​Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, 715 Nazareth St, Raleigh, NC 27606


Black Catholic History Month

Celebration of Mass with Bishop Roy E. Campbell, Jr., Auxiliary Bishop of Washington honoring the Archdiocese of Washington’s Gospel Choir.

Praise and Worship – 7:00 PM; Mass – 7:30 PM
St. Joseph’s Catholic Church is located at
2020 St. Josephs Dr., Largo, MD 20774

6401 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, FL 33073

954-427-2222 | 877-654-2960

Influential Black Catholics Throughout History

Why Do We Celebrate Black Catholic History Month?

On July 24, 1990, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States designated November as Black Catholic History Month to celebrate the long history and proud heritage of Black Catholics. Two commemorative dates fall within this month, Saint Augustine’s Birthday (November 13) and Saint Martin de Porres’ Feast Day (November 3). More importantly, 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.

Some people forget that Christianity did not originate in Europe and even express surprise when they learn that Black Catholic History began in the Acts of the Apostles (8: 26-40) with the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch by Philip the Deacon. This text is important for several reasons. First, it chronicles the conversion of the first Black African in recorded Christian history. Second, the text suggests that the man was a wealthy, literate, and powerful emissary of the Nubian Queen and also a faithful, practicing Jew prior to his baptism. Clearly, he was not an ignorant heathen. Third, the Ethiopian Eunuch’s conversion predates the conversions of Saints Paul and Cornelius. Most significantly, many cite this conversion as the very moment when the church changed from a Hebrew and Hellenist community to the truly Universal and Catholic Church.

Black Catholics trace their faith history back to Christian antiquity long before other nations heard the “Good News.” Christian Africa was indeed a “leading light” in early Christendom. Black Catholics point to three popes who were born in Africa: Saints Victor I, Melchiades, and Gelasius I. All three shepherded the early church through tough and tumultuous times in history. Black Catholics claim many Black Saints like Saints Cyprian, Zeno, Anthony of Egypt, Moses the Black, Pachomius, Maurice, Athanasius, Pisentius, Mary of Egypt, Cyril of Alexandria, Monica of Hippo, Augustine of Hippo, Perpetua, Felicitas, and Thecla. Some of these mystics, monastics, ands, martyrs literally made the church what it is today.

Not many people know that King Nzinga-a-Nkuwu Mbemba (Afonso the Good) of the Kongo and his subjects made their profession of faith thanks to the work of Portuguese missionaries one year before Christopher Columbus made his famous voyage in 1492, or that Pope Leo X consecrated the king’s son, Henrique, Titular Bishop of Utica in 1518 which was one year before Martin Luther nailed his list of ninety-five theses to the Church in Wittenberg. Bishop Henrique was the first native bishop of West Africa. However, he died in 1531. The Congolese Church and the hopes for an indigenous clergy died with him. Finally, the genocidal slave trade killed true evangelization in sub-Saharan Africa for several centuries.

Notwithstanding the moral crimes of chattel slavery, the French and Spanish missionaries ministered to their free and enslaved African population within their respective colonies. This ministry laid the foundation for Black Catholic communities within the United States, i.e. Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Saint Augustine, Florida. It is important to note that many African-American Catholics cherish a certain Peruvian Dominican, Saint Martin de Porres, the only Black Saint from the Western Hemisphere to date.

Tragically, the American Catholic Church did not seriously commit its time and resources to minister to the African-American population during the ante-bellurn or post-bellum periods. However, God made a way!!! In spite of insuperable obstacles and opposition, African-American Catholics created a remarkable movement of faith and evangelization. Many courageous people played pivotal roles within church history like Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, Mathilda Beasley, Daniel Rudd, and the Reverend Augustus Tolton. They witnessed their faith, ministered to their people, and left lasting legacies in the face of prejudice, ignorance, and indifference. One cannot read their stories without feeling tremendous joy, sorrow, and inspiration. They are truly heroic accounts!

Black History Month provides opportunities to learn and share the whole history and rich heritage of Christian Catholicism. Ubi Victoria Veritas! The Victory of Truth!

For more information about Black Catholic History, please read, The History of Black Catholics in the United States by Cyprian Davis.

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Tolton | Saint Luke Productions
Saint Luke Productions
Now Booking Tolton
  Now Booking Shows
in 2017-2018
  Experience hope and healing in the riveting true story of America's
first Black priest.
Contact St. Luke Productions
to schedule a performance
for your community!

  "We need this production on Father Tolton to inspire a new era of peace, hope and forgiveness in America."  
  ~ Bishop Joseph Perry, Chicago

Washington D.C., Feb 24, 2016 / 03:12 am (CNA).- For Fr. Stephen Thorne, Black History Month is not only a chance to remember the struggles faced by the African-American community throughout the centuries.

It’s also an opportunity to learn from the witness of one of the oldest communities of Catholics in the U.S.

This witness of Black Catholics, in the face of discrimination and animus, is a gift all Catholics can learn from, said Fr. Thorne, an African-American priest in the Philadelphia archdiocese.

“The resilience of African-American Catholics today is a sign of (their) great faith,” he told CNA.  Full story...

​​​We welcome you to submit your upcoming events!

We would love to include your parish activities, upcoming organizational conferences, or arch/diocesan events. Please email your information to: and feel free to attach a pdf of your flier, advertisement, or logo for us to include.

Gail Finke /  October 30, 2017 

With help from caring friends like you, Food For The Poor feeds hundreds of thousands of people every day primarily in 17 countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.

As a Christian charity, we take our responsibility to be good stewards of your donations very seriously. And we maintain one of the highest efficiency ratings of any charity our size.

The Historic Beginnings of Black Catholicism

Sister Thea Bowman

A Roman Catholic religious sister, teacher, and scholar who made a major contribution to the ministry of the Catholic Church to her fellow African Americans, Sr. Bowman became an evangelist among her people and was a popular speaker on faith and spirituality in her final years. She helped...  Read more...

Daniel Rudd

Daniel Rudd (August 7, 1854–1933) was a Catholic journalist and civil rights leader who lived his early years in Bardstown, Kentucky on Anatok Plantation, where he was born into slavery. He was the eleventh of twelve children born to Eliza and Robert Rudd. Sometime before 1876 the ambitious Rudd moved to Springfield, Ohio, where he completed his education. Read more...

Calendar of Events​​

Saturday, February 3-Tuesday, February 6, 2018
​The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering

The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering will be held from February 3 through 6, 2018 in Washington, DC. Registration and Diversity Outreach Initiative materials are ready. Must receive financial aid requests by November 10, 2017. Visit

Blessed Fr. Cyprian Tansi
Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi (born in Aguleri, Anambra State, Nigeria in September 1903 – died in Leicester, England, 24 January 1964) was an IgboNigerian ordained a Roman Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Onitsha, Nigeria on 19 December 1937. He worked in the parishes of... Read more...

Meet Fr. Tolton face-to-face in this exciting new multimedia theater production based on the amazing true story of Fr. Augustus Tolton, the first African American priest. Be riveted by his dramatic escape from slavery, encouraged by his struggle against prejudice, and transformed by his message of reconciliation and hope.

Fr. Tolton's canonization cause is monumental - he could become the first African American saint! 

You can bring Tolton to your community!
Contact Saint Luke Productions to see how your group
can experience this wonderful drama.

Visit to learn more.

From the NBCC and the Josephites Archives

The National Black Catholic Congress | 320 Cathedral St. Baltimore, MD 21201 | 410-547-8496
© 2017 The National Black Catholic Congress, All Rights Reserved

November 2017

Saturday, November 4th/10:00am - 2:00pm

College & Career Tailgating Expo
St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, 4600 Reed Rd, Houston, TX 77051
Presented by St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church - Youth Ministry and Drexel Society, Inc. - Houston Chapter - Youth Awareness. Prizes for youth. Invite families and friends. Contact Angela Duplechain 713-416-6957; JoAnna Henderson 282-513-2803; Michelle Duplechain 713-501-0242; Percy Pichon, Jr. 713-539-9156.

The following photos from the Archdiocese of  Cincinnati’s Archives are featured in collages in the November print issue. Because many of the schools and parishes they came from are now closed, some of the photos have no dates and little to identify them; we’ve given the identification listed in the Archives. Together they are witness to the faith of generations of African-American Catholics in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.


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Most Rev. Moses Anderson 

He was born on September 9, 1928 in Selma, Alabama, and graduated from Knox Academy there in 1949. He was a member of the Society of St. Edmund. Anderson then attended Saint Michael's College in Winooski, Vermont, where he majored in philosophy attaining a B.A. Read more...

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

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St. Josephine Bakhita

Born around 1869 in the village of Olgossa in the Darfur region of Sudan, she was a member of the Daju people and her uncle was a tribal chief. Sometime in February 1877, Josephine was kidnapped by Arab slave traders. Although she was just a child, she was forced to walk barefoot over 600 miles to a slave market in El Obeid. She was bought and sold at least twice during the grueling journey.Read more...

The painful, resilient history of America's black Catholics

by Adelaide Mena

Mother Mathilda Beasley

Whatever provided the impetus for Mathilda’s faith, she embraced Catholicism wholeheartedly upon her husband’s death.  She gave her entire inheritance to the Roman Catholic Church, and she requested that part of the funds be used for a home for African-American orphans. She also decided to make her faith her life’s work by... Read more... 

Most Rev. James P. Lyke

James Lyke was born on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of seven children of Amos and Ora (née Sneed) Lyke. His father abandoned the family, and his mother was left to raise the children in impoverished surroundings, relying on welfare checks.[2] The family lived in a flat, where there were no beds and the only source of heat was a coal stove, before moving to Wentworth... Read more...

Fr. Cyprian Davis

Fr. Davis resided at St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana. His six books, including The History of Black Catholics in the United States (Crossroad, 1990), which won the American Catholic Historical Association’s John Gilmary Shea Prize, represented a groundbreaking contri-bution to the history of American... Read more...

Blessed Isidore Bakanja

Beatified on 24 April 1994 by Pope John Paul II, Isidore Bakanja is considered a strong witness to the grace of reconciliation that can be experienced between peoples of different races.

Bakanja accepted the Christian faith at eighteen years of age through the ministry... Read more...

Saturday, November 19, 2017

Annual Diocesan African Heritage Celebration

Sunday, November 19th beginning at 3:00 PM
Annual Diocesan African Heritage Celebration
Join us for the Annual Diocesan African Heritage Celebration, sponsored by the Diocese of Raleigh Office of African Ancestry Ministry and Evangelization to be held at the 
​Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, 715 Nazareth St, Raleigh, NC 27606​​

The Stono Slave Rebellion Was Nearly Erased From US History Books

by Steven J. Niven  |  2/22/16

"Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" "Here I am," I said, "Send me!" Isaiah 6:8