Jesus became man that all might have life and have it more abundantly in him. In fact, the Archdiocese of Denver exists to accomplish that very goal, that all might be rescued and have abundant life for the glory of the Father. For us Catholics, our part in that mission is beautifully accentuated by the little-c catholicity or universality of our faith. And in northern Colorado, the Office of Black Catholic Ministry of the Archdiocese of Denver exemplifies that diverse and unifying evangelization.
“The primary function of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry is to address the pastoral needs of the Black/African/African American Catholic community,” said Kateri Joda Williams, Director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry, “and to increase awareness of the achievements and contributions of Black individuals in the history of our Catholic Church.”
To accomplish that very goal, Williams crafts a series of culturally relevant programs, retreats, days of reflection and special eucharistic celebrations throughout the year. The annual Masses for Healing and Reconciliation and Peace and Justice are some of these special celebrations.
“First and foremost, our mission is to build the Kingdom for the glory of the Father,” Williams continued, speaking of the importance of evangelization efforts for youth, non-Catholics and lapsed Catholics alike. It is these groups that the Office of Black Catholic Ministry seeks to welcome into the vibrant Black Catholic community in Denver.
“Furthermore, the goal is for all Catholics to gain the understanding that Black Catholic history is Catholic history,” Williams continued, referencing the universality and catholicity of the Church. In fact, she reminded, there are six African American individuals on the road to sainthood. Beyond Denver’s own “Angel of Charity” Servant of God Julia Greeley, the other five include newly proclaimed Venerable Mary Lange, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, Servant of God Thea Bowman, Venerable Henriette Delille and Venerable Augustus Tolton.
In addition to these holy men and women whose causes for canonization are open, active and progressing, the nation was recently rapt with holy curiosity when Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, OSB, the African American founder of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, was found to be potentially incorrupt in Missouri.
“These are exciting moments in Catholic history!” Williams shared, reflecting on these holy men and women’s example, their place in the Church and their journeys towards sainthood.
The cause for excitement doesn’t end there, either, Williams shared, given the upcoming National Black Catholic Congress taking place later this month in Baltimore. The Congress aims to “evangelize and give witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ,” she told the Denver Catholic. Meeting every five years and made up of member organizations that represent African American Roman Catholics across the U.S., “the Congress meets to worship, celebrate the faith and develop a Pastoral Plan of Action,” Williams concluded.
A group of Denver Catholics will accompany Williams to the conference, where they will unite with several thousand Black Catholics and those who pray with them as they pray, worship, discern, discuss, connect with and support each other.
In fact, that final point tends to resonate most deeply for those in attendance at the Congress. While many Black Catholics find themselves in the minority in their communities and congregations, at the NBCC that is certainly not the case.
“It is life-affirming in terms of faith formation – the excitement and validation of being surrounded by Catholics, clergy and laypersons that look like you and share lived experiences with a profound love for our Lord Jesus Christ,” Williams reflected. “It is a phenomenal feeling!”
After taking the time to pray, reflect, discern and discuss, the delegation from Denver will be charged with returning to the Mile High City to share their reinvigorated joy and all of the lessons they learned. Rather than keep that joy to themselves and other Black Catholics, they, along with the Office of Black Catholic Ministry, will continue to share the Good News to build up the universal church.
“Celebrating what makes each and every one of us unique helps us embrace the blessings of the different gifts that God has bestowed on all brothers and sisters in Christ, ‘so that they may all be one’ (Jn 17:21),” Williams shared.
This is indeed an exciting moment in the life of the American church, and cause for great joy! With so many Black Catholic men and women on the road to sainthood, the Office of Black Catholic Ministry of the Archdiocese of Denver has no shortage of heavenly friends.
As for this side of Heaven, Williams asks the faithful of the archdiocese for their prayerful support.
“Prayers are always greatly appreciated for this ministry which has been a part of the archdiocese for over two decades,” she said, making a point to encourage all to spread the word about the ministry, promoting and attending functions sponsored by her office. “All events are open to everyone, and all are welcome!” she concluded.
To learn more about the Office of Black Catholic Ministry of the Archdiocese of Denver, visit archden.org/pastoral-outreach/black-ministry/.