Wednesday, March 12, 2014

All praises to teachers

I went with the kid's class to Tibet-Butler Preserve today, and came away not with new knowledge about nature but with even more respect for teachers (and as the daughter of a teacher, my respect level was already pretty doggone high).

Even though each child had a parent present ostensibly to keep everything under control, the energy and noise levels were incredibly high. Frustratingly high, in fact. Somehow, though, the preschool teachers managed to enforce order and, when warranted, encourage silence with a minimum of fuss. It was amazing.

They have skill sets I don't possess. It would be difficult for me to keep that number of children from accidentally maiming themselves each day.

Power and respect to them. They should be paid more highly.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

National Black Catholic History Month: Dr. Diana L. Hayes



While I was a student at Georgetown, I had the pleasure of taking a class -- just one, sadly -- with Dr. Diana L. Hayes.

It was just a 'Intro to the Bible' class (I got an 'A,' because, obviously), but she was a revelation, so dynamic, so knowledgeable. I hadn't known anything about her before I took the class, and when I went on to do a little surreptitious research, I was incredibly impressed by her body of work and her focus on the experiences of black Catholics. I went on to read everything I could find that she's published. I sincerely regret that I didn't have a chance to take more classes with her -- and that I didn't keep up with her after the class (and it would probably seem creepy and fangirlish if I contacted her today to tell her how her example influenced me, right?).

She is the first black American woman to earn a Pontifical doctorate in theology (Catholic University of Louvain), and also holds law and doctor of sacred theology degrees.

Dr. Hayes has also written books with Fr. Cyprian Davis, about whom I wrote earlier this month. Her books include Taking Down Our Harps: Black Catholics in the United States, Hagar’s Daughters: Womanist Ways of Being in the World, And Still We Rise: An Introduction to Black Liberation Theology and -- a Lenten favorite in my household -- Were You There?: Stations of the Cross.

Dr. Hayes has since retired from Georgetown, but has lectured throughout the world on subjects including black theology, womanist theology and black liberation theology.


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Monday, November 25, 2013

National Black Catholic History Month: Venerable Pierre Toussaint



The formerly enslaved hairdresser, philanthropist and devoted Catholic Pierre Toussaint could one day soon be named a saint.

Toussaint was born into slavery in Haiti in the 18th century. By the time he was in his early 20s, he'd moved with his owner's family to New York City, where his owner, who had been trying to escape the Haitian Revolution, apprenticed him to a hairdresser.

He picked up the trade quickly and soon was hairdresser to some of the city's elite. He was allowed to keep much of his earnings for himself and became a wealthy man, though still technically enslaved. When his owner died, leaving a destitute widow, Toussaint used his considerable fortune to help support the devastated woman. Although he bought the freedom of his sister and several other enslaved blacks -- including the woman who would become his wife -- Toussaint never actually purchased his own freedom.

When his owner's wife died about 1807, she freed Toussaint in her will. As a free man, he continued to practice his trade and fed many destitute families and cared for orphans, including his niece, Euphemia, whom he and his wife raised as their own child.

He was said to have attended Mass at 6 a.m. daily for decades at St. Peter's Church on Barclay Street (he was not allowed to enter St. Patrick's Old Cathedral because he was black).

He is considered by many to be one of the founders of what would become Catholic Charities.

Toussaint died June 30, 1853. His body was moved to the new St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City in 1990, about the same time that the cause for his canonization was opened. He was declared venerable -- the step before canonization -- in 1996.


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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

National Black Catholic History Month: Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary

You have, no doubt, heard of the Knights of Columbus. It's hard to find a spot in the U.S. that doesn't know the group for its fish fries, game nights, spelling bees or political stances.

Are you equally as familiar with the Knights of Peter Claver, though?

The group is named in honor of St. Peter Claver, a Spanish Jesuit who traveled to what is now Colombia in the early 1600s. There, he worked in the service of enslaved Africans, advocating on their behalf with their owners, treating their injuries and praying with and for them.

The Knights of Peter Claver were founded by four Josephite priests in Mobile, Ala., in 1909, as a fraternal Catholic men's organization. Today it is the largest historically black Catholic lay organization in the U.S. Its headquarters is in New Orleans.

During the past 100+ years, the Knights have provided financial support to organizations including the NAACP, Urban League, National Black Clergy, National Black Sisters Conferences, the National Council of Negro Women, the National Black Catholic Congress and Xavier University of New Orleans.

The current Supreme Knight of the organization is F. DeKarlos Blackmon, who is thought to be the youngest ever leader of the organization (he also has an active presence on Facebook). The current Supreme Lady of the Ladies Auxiliary is Vertelle A. Kenion.

Learn more about the Knights of Peter Claver at the organization's website.


(Images via Knights of Peter Claver Tampa and BlackPast.org)

Follow my National Black Catholic History Month tag for more information on black Catholic notables.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

National Black Catholic History Month: St. Joseph's Society of the Sacred Heart



The St. Joseph's Society of the Sacred Heart, commonly known as the Josephites, are a community of U.S. based priests which has been devoted to serving people of African descent since 1871.

The group originally began as the English Foreign Mission Society of Saint Joseph, which sent priests to the U.S. to educate newly-freed people of African descent after the U.S. Civil War.

When the mission reorganized as an American-based group in 1893, taking their current name, Father Charles Randolph Uncles was among the founders of the new society.

The Josephites have remained dedicated to their mission of serving exclusively people of African descent in the U.S. in urban and rural communities. They operate schools and parishes, mostly in the South, in six states and the District of Columbia. Since the 1990s, the Josephites have brought dozens of priests from Nigeria to serve in historically black parishes in the U.S. The Josephite Harvest, the society's publication, may well be one of the longest running Catholic publications in the U.S. The Josephite Pastoral Center is a resource for books and other items of use to Catholic ministries serving black Americans (I am particularly fond of the calendar, and purchase one each year).

Learn more about the Josephites at their website.


(Image via CatholicExchange.com)

Follow my National Black Catholic History Month tag for more information on black Catholic notables.

Monday, November 18, 2013

National Black Catholic History Month: Father Charles Randolph Uncles



We've already discussed the claims Bishop James Augustine Healy (who was never known to publicly identify as black) and Father Augustus Tolton have to the title "first black American priest," but did you know there's also a third candidate?

Meet Father Charles Randolph Uncles.

Uncles was born about 1859 or 1860 in Baltimore, Md., (which had a significant population of black Catholics) to Lorenzo and Anna Uncles. The members of the Uncles family reportedly were fair-skinned enough to pass for white, but declined to do so. He was educated in Quebec, Canada, but later studied for the priesthood at St. Joseph Seminary in Baltimore.

He was ordained in Baltimore in 1891. That was a few years after Tolton's ordination and decades after Healy's ordination, but since Uncles was the only one of our three "first black American priest" candidates both to have identified as black and been ordained in the United States, he is often said to have the only true claim to the title. The first U.S. ordination of a black man merited mention in the New York Times the day after it happened.

For most of his life, Uncles taught students Latin, Greek and English at schools in Baltimore and upstate New York. He died July 21, 1933.

Father Uncles also had an important role to play in the founding of the Josephites, the subject of tomorrow's post.


Follow my National Black Catholic History Month tag for more information on black Catholic notables.

Friday, November 15, 2013

National Black Catholic History Month: Fr. Cyprian Davis, OSB


Meet Father Cyprian Davis, OSB.

The National Black Catholic Congress has described him as the "single most important leader in historical studies of the African-American Catholic Church in the United States."

The Washington, D.C., native and prolific writer is a graduate of Saint Meinrad College, The Catholic University of America and University of Louvain. He has been a Benedictine monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey since 1951.

He teaches at the Saint Meinrad seminary. He also has taught at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans, according to his Saint Meinrad faculty profile.

He has been a tremendous inspiration to historians as well as black American Catholics and seminarians.

(Image via Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology)

Some works written or co-authored by Father Davis (all Amazon links):
Henriette Delille: Servant of Slaves, Witness to the Poor
Stamped with the Image of God: African Americans as God's Image in Black
Taking Down Our Harps: Black Catholics in the United States
The History of Black Catholics in the United States
To Prefer Nothing to Christ



Follow my National Black Catholic History Month tag for more information on black Catholic notables.