Among the banners that formed the procession into the church at the annual Archdiocesan Black History Month Mass were those from the archdiocese’s bicentennial anniversary written with the words, “Through Faith We Grow.”
The words were most fitting for the afternoon liturgy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Feb. 3 coordinated by the archdiocesan Office of Black Ministry.
“Feb. 3 is really a coming together of a number of different observances and celebrations. This is the Year of Faith, the first Sunday in February is when we celebrate our families and also the day we celebrate our consecrated men and women,” said Brother Tyrone Davis, C.F.C., executive director of the Office of Black Ministry.
The day also marked the National Day of Prayer for the African-American and African Family.
Brother Davis, who spoke with CNY in an interview, said the Mass highlights the faith of the community. The black Catholic community represented at the liturgy included members from the United States, the Caribbean, Central America and Africa. They speak English, French, Creole, Spanish, Akan and Garifuna, and many other languages.
“We are a multicultural community, a multicultural Church, and we always need to take the opportunities to celebrate that which is so significantly a part of who we are: our faith and our culture,” he said.
Many wore traditional garments representing their heritage and nationality. Others wore shirts from the bicentennial celebration, which took place in 2008, with the logo of the Office of Black Ministry and the celebration’s motto, “Through Faith We Grow,” printed on them.
The principal celebrant was Cardinal Egan, archbishop emeritus. The homilist was Father George Quickley, S.J., pastor of St. Patrick’s parish in Oakland, Calif., and former provincial of the North-West Africa Province of the Society of Jesus. During his homily, he focused on the many contributions of the black community in American society and the Church.
“We celebrate by telling the story of contributions African-Americans have made,” Father Quickley said.
“In our celebration today, which is even more important, we tell the story of how much God loves us,” he added.
Without the contributions of blacks in America, Father Quickley said there would be “something irrepressibly hopeful and creative” missing from life today. He noted that many significant figures in politics, literature, sports and music would be missing. A few of the past and present names he mentioned were inventor George Washington Carver, President Barack Obama, writer Toni Morrison, championship boxer Joe Louis, baseball immortal Jackie Robinson and Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa.
Immigrants from Africa, in particular, bring a new perspective on such values as tradition and the family, Father Quickley said.
“As a Church, through the power of the Spirit, we will have the courage to bring glad tidings of great joy to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed.”
Letisha Miller, the confirmation coordinator at St. Charles Borromeo parish in Harlem, noted that some 10 young confirmands from St. Charles were present with their families. “It’s important as black Catholics to attend and support the annual Black History Month Mass at St. Patrick’s,” she said. “We as black Catholics have over 200 years of history that we are proud of.”
She noted that the worshipping community in the cathedral was “blessed to have a deepened Catholic faith.” The Mass, she said, was a wonderful way to celebrate with black Catholics from other parishes, and even from other dioceses, and proclaim “unity and our belief in one holy Lord, Jesus Christ.”