Black Catholic History is Catholic History!

Amy Bryer Brumley

Black Catholics have had a huge impact on the history and traditions of Christianity. The National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States designated November as Black Catholic History Month 30 years ago to celebrate the long history and proud heritage of black Catholics.

Two commemorative dates fall within this month, St. Martin de Porres’ Feast Day on Nov. 3 and St. Augustine’s Birthday on Nov. 13.

Denver Celebrates First African American Cardinal

Just in time to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of National Black Catholic History Month, Pope Francis announced the first African American will be appointed to the College of Cardinals on Nov. 28.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., will be elevated to the highest governing body in the Catholic Church. This is an exciting action taken by the Holy Father who has not named an American to the College of Cardinals since 2016.

Kateri Williams, director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry in the Archdiocese of Denver states that the news is exhilarating to hear. She had the pleasure of meeting Cardinal-elect Gregory in Georgia during his service as Archbishop of Atlanta.

“He has an especially warm place in the hearts of many black Catholics in the Denver area,” Williams said.  “This historic moment is a call for celebration for all Catholics in our universal Church.”

Deacon Clarence McDavid from Cure’D’Ars Catholic parish recollects that as a child growing up in Denver it was not his experience to see a Catholic priest or religious who was African American.

In the late 1990’s, Gregory served as the keynote speaker for the Black Catholics’ Annual Faith and Unity Weekend and celebrated Mass at Denver’s St. Ignatius Loyola parish.

Margaret Wright, a parishioner in attendance, remarked that it has always been a pleasure to attend any of Archbishop’s Gregory’s liturgies and presentations.

“His words are powerful and very thoughtful,” Wright said.

“Such a gifted and holy man,” Shermita West from St. Jude parish in Lakewood said. “I am grateful that Pope Francis recognized Archbishop Gregory’s accomplishments, and his love of the Church and its people.”

With so much to celebrate in November, Williams hopes all Denver Catholics will take special reflection of the contributions of their black Catholic brothers and sisters.

“Black Catholic History is Catholic History!” Williams said.

All Are Invited!

Cardinal-elect Gregory is a featured speaker in a program sponsored by the archdiocese office on Saturday, Nov. 14.

To participate with the zoom event, you will need to register for the Tolton’s Legacy: A Road Map to Unity- 2020 Vision.

REGISTER FOR ZOOM EVENT

COMING UP: ‘I have seen the Lord’: St. Vincent de Paul’s new adoration chapel honors St. Mary Magdelene’s witness

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“I have seen the Lord.” (John 20:18). 

One couple from St. Vincent de Paul parish took these words to heart with urgency last year during the pandemic and decided to build a Eucharistic Adoration chapel for their fellow faithful to be in the Lord’s presence themselves. 

Mike and Shari Sullivan donated design and construction of the new Eucharistic Adoration Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene adjacent to their parish church to make a space for prayer and adoration that they felt needed to be reinstated, especially during the difficult days of COVID-19. 

The chapel was completed this spring and dedicated during Divine Mercy weekend with a special blessing from Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila. 

“It was invigorating to have the archbishop bless the chapel,” Mike said. “The church has been buzzing.” 

Mike has been a Catholic and a member of St. Vincent de Paul since his baptism, which he jokes was around the time the cornerstone was placed in 1951. The Sullivans’ five children all attended the attached school and had their sacraments completed at St. Vincent de Paul too. 

Archbishop Samuel Aquila dedicated the St. Mary Magdalene adoration chapel with a prayer and blessing at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church on April 9, 2021, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

The 26-by 40-foot chapel is a gift to fellow parishioners of a church that has meant so much to their family for decades, and to all who want to participate in prayer and adoration. 

The architect and contractor are both Catholic, which helped in the design of Catholic structure and the construction crew broke ground in mid-December. The Sullivans wanted to reclaim any Catholic artifacts or structural pieces they could for the new chapel. Some of the most striking features of the chapel are the six stained glass windows Mike was able to secure from a demolished church in New York. 

The windows were created by Franz Xaver Zettler who was among a handful of artists known for the Munich style of stained glass from the 19th century.  The Munich style is accomplished by painting detailed pictures on large pieces of glass unlike other stained-glass methods, which use smaller pieces of colored glass to make an image. 

The two primary stained-glass windows depict St. Augustine and St. Mary Magdalene, the chapel’s namesake, and they frame either side of the altar which holds the tabernacle and monstrance — both reused from St.  Vincent De Paul church.  

The Sullivans wanted to design a cloistered feel for the space and included the traditional grill and archway that opens into the pews and kneelers with woodwork from St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. 

The chapel was generously donated by Mike and Shari Sullivan. The stained glass windows, which depict St. Augustine and St. Mary Magdalene, were created by Franz Xaver Zettler, who was among a handful of artists known for the Munich style of stained glass from the 19th century. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

Shari is a convert to Catholicism and didn’t grow up with the practice of Eucharistic adoration, but St. Vincent de Paul pastor Father John Hilton told her to watch how adoration will transform the parish. She said she knows it will, because of what regular Eucharistic adoration has done for her personally. 

The Sullivans are excited that the teachers at St. Vincent de Paul school plan to bring their classes to the warm and inviting chapel to learn about the practice of adoration and reflect on the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 

The words of St. Mary Magdalene “I have seen the Lord,” have become the motto of the chapel, Mike said, and they are emblazoned on a brass plaque to remind those who enter the holy space of Christ’s presence and the personal transformation offered to those inside.

The St. Vincent de Paul  Church and The Eucharistic Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene is located at 2375 E. Arizona Ave. Denver 80210 on the corner of Arizona and Josephine Street. The chapel is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Visit https://saintvincents.org/adorationchapel1 for more information about the chapel and to look for updates on expanded hours as they occur.