November is National Black Catholic History Month

What do Simone Biles, Donna Brazile, and Kobe Bryant all have in common?

Through their successes, trials and tribulations, they have remained devout members of the Catholic faith.

In celebration of National Black Catholic History Month, the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library will display a special exhibit in honor of Black Catholics during the month of November, created by the Office of Black Catholic Ministry at the Archdiocese of Denver. In addition, the library has a permanent gallery that highlights the contributions of local Black Catholics, past and present.

Kateri Joda Williams, Director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry, invites you to explore the displays of the Knights of Peter Claver and the Ladies Auxiliary in addition to photos of Deacon Clarence McDavid, State Senator Angela Williams, the late Adetunji Joda, Sr., and Servant of God, Julia Greeley, Denver’s own Angel of Charity who is one of six Black candidates for canonization.

On Nov. 16, Williams will host an informal meet and greet session for Black Catholics at the research library from 10 a.m. to noon. Wanting to connect with all Black Catholics across the archdiocese, Williams also has created a brief survey that can be accessed from the archdiocesan website or the Black Catholic Ministry Facebook page.

The Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library is located at 2401 Welton Street in Denver. Please call or check the library website for library hours in the month of November. All are invited to celebrate the long history and proud heritage of Black Catholics.

Learn more

COMING UP: Some fun facts about Black Catholic History Month

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The Church has designated November as Black Catholic History Month since 1990 when the National Black Clergy Caucus of the United States instigated it.  November seemed appropriate because it holds special days for two prominent African Catholics:  St. Augustine, whose birthday is Nov. 13, and St Martin de Porres, whose feast day is celebrated on November 3.  St. Ignatius of Loyola recognized St. Martin de Porres on the First Sunday of the Month.

St. Monica is best known as the mother of St. Augustine. She was known for her outstanding Christian virtues, particularly the suffering caused by her husband’s adultery, and her prayerful life dedicated to the reformation of her son, who wrote extensively of her pious acts and life with her in his Confessions.

Did you know?

There are five African American Catholics who are being proposed for Sainthood.  They are Pierre Toussaint (New York), Henriette DeLille (New Orleans), Mary Elizabeth Lange (Baltimore), Augustin Tolton (Chicago), and Julia Greeley (Denver).

Other fun facts…

There have been 3 African Popes in the Catholic Church:

  • Pope Gelasius l, who was Pope from 1 March 492 to his death in 496.
  • Pope Miltiades, who was Pope of the Catholic Church from 311 to his death in 314.
  • Pope Victor I was the first Bishop of Rome born in the Roman Province of Africa. The dates of his tenure are uncertain. However, one source states he became Pope in 189 and died in 199.

Number of African American Catholics

There are 3 million African American Catholics in the United States. Of Roman Catholic parishes in the United States, 798 are predominantly African American. Most of those continue to be on the East Coast and in the South. Further west of the Mississippi River, African American Catholics are more likely to be immersed in multicultural parishes as opposed to predominantly African American parishes.

  • About 76% of African American Catholics are in diverse or shared parishes and 24% are in predominately African American parishes.
  • At present there are 15 living African American bishops, of whom 8 remain active.
  • Currently, six U.S. dioceses are headed by African American bishops, including one archdiocese.
  • There are 250 African American priests, 437 deacons, and 75 men of African descent in seminary formation for the priesthood in the United States.
  • There are 400 African American religious sisters and 50 religious brothers.
  • The Black population in the United States is estimated to be just over 36 million people (13% of the total U.S. population).

By the year 2050, the Black population is expected to almost double its present size to 62 million.