“We must be ready to give Him a complete account of our talents,” Father Kareem Smith said
Father Wesbee Victor, parochial vicar at Holy Name of Jesus/St. Gregory Parish in Manhattan served as principal celebrant of the annual Black Catholic History Month Mass on Saturday, November 18 at The Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Lower Manhattan.
“What a fitting place for us all to be gathered for this sacred celebration,” Father Kareem Smith, administrator at St. Michael the Archangel in the Bronx, said in his opening remarks. The Mass was sponsored by the Black Ministry Offices of both the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn.
“We are privileged to be worshiping today in what was once the cathedral for the entire region and state of New York, which had as one of its major donors a formerly enslaved Haitian man named Pierre Toussaint (Venerable) – who, by the way, after having generously donated to the building of this great cathedral, was reminded by an usher that he was sitting in the wrong place, that he had to be seated in the colored section,” Father Smith said.
Father Smith also noted that the date of the Mass, November 18, would have been the 83rd birthday “of our beloved Father James E. Goode, OFM, and so we remember the dean of Black Catholic preachers.” Father Goode served as guardian of St. Clare’s Friary in Manhattan and president of the National Black Clergy Caucus. He died on March 4, 2022, at age 81.
“We are gathered to remember our history – to remember that so many years ago there was a man named the Venerable Pierre Toussaint, who in his heart, despite all the terrible things he had experienced, loved God sincerely, and his Church – and that he gave so that we might be able to stand in this building and to worship to the glory of God,” Father Smith said later in his homily.
He went on to talk about the importance of the Church’s call for us to remain faithful and dedicated to Christ. “We must be devoted to Him; we must be ready to give Him a complete account of our talents, as the Gospel reminds us.”
Joseph P. Murray, a parishioner of Blessed Trinity in Queens, was among the faithful at the Mass. Murray serves as co-director of music at St. Martin de Porres in Brooklyn.
“The homily message was great. Father Kareem is an excellent homilist,” Murray told The Good Newsroom after the Mass. “The takeaway here is that we still have work to do. As far as we’ve come, there’s a long, long way to go. But it’s encouraging to know that we can all come together in a way that allows us to see each other and know that we’re not doing the work alone.”
On July 24, 1990, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States designated November as Black Catholic History Month to celebrate the history and heritage of black Catholics. The Mass program included information on six African American women and men who organizers hope are “on the road to sainthood.” The information, as presented in the program:
Venerable Pierre Toussaint, 1766-1853, Philanthropist; Servant of the Poor
Venerable Sister Henriette Delille, 1812-1862, Founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family
New Orleans, Louisiana
Venerable Mother Mary Lange, 1794-1882. Founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, Baltimore, Maryland
Venerable Father Augustus Tolton, 1854-1897, First recognized African American priest in the United States, Chicago, Illinois
Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman, 1937-1990, Educator and Evangelist
Servant of God Julia Greeley, c. 1833-1918, Philanthropist