February is Black History Month...!!!
I’m trying to figure out why, in a Country where 24% of the population claims to be Catholic, only 3% of African Americans worship as Catholics...!!!
While I grew up in a typical second generation Italian American neighborhood, and I’m sorry to say I DID hear the ‘N’ word used from time to time, it always amazed me that there were so few blacks in our Church...!!!
Why was I amazed...???
From first grade on we were taught that discrimination against anyone of another race, creed, or ethnic background was sinful...The good sisters of the IHM made it perfectly clear...clear enough, in fact, that that ‘good news’ trumped any vestiges of discrimination left from the generation of our parents or grandparents...!!!
Still...it was difficult to shed some of the prejudices and stereotypes that surrounded us and the society of those days...For me, meeting, befriending, and appreciating on a one on one basis several black friends was my own personal ticket out of prejudice and into Christian brotherhood...!!!
Fast forwarding to the present day, my faith and my upbringing have conditioned me to accept people as they come...e.g. there are some Catholics, Italian Americans, Republicans, Democrats, Secular Feminists, Egotistical intellectuals, and others who I have come to dislike...however...my Faith, which I try to keep at the center of my life and family, insists that I LOVE EVEN THOSE...
NOW...one of my heroes has become SISTER THEA BOWMAN...Sister Thea has only recently become known to me, although she died in 1990...!!! A resident of Mississippi and a convert to Catholicism, Sister Thea broke many racial barriers in the Catholic Church in America. Proud of her African American heritage, the slavery of her ancestors, and the fight for equality for all her black ‘brethren’, Sister Thea became a Franciscan Nun, and through her singing, linguistical background, and educational ministries won many followers and admirers, both during her lifetime and even now...
A paraphrase of Sister Thea’s to a gathering Of The US Conference Of Catholic Bishops in 1989, just a year before she succumbed to cancer...’If you go into a room and you see a particular group not represented there, go out and invite them in’...In that short paraphrase Sister Thea underscored the Catholic Church’s claim to be ‘UNIVERSAL’ and ‘COLORBLIND’, and urged The Catholic Bishops to be sensitive to the various CULTURAL GIFTS that are often ignored by our Church and which gifts could greatly enhance our Worship To God...!!!
Sister Thea ‘FORCED’ Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes to admit that ‘BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL’
I write this post, not only to commemorate the memory of Sister Thea Bowman, but as an open invitation to those of African American heritage to come and Worship with us...We need your cultural diversity, your ardent enthusiasm, and your persevering Spirit...You may find that being ‘CATHOLIC IS BEAUTIFUL’...
I have entered a room in which I noticed there were many of you missing...WELCOME HOME...!!!
HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND...!!!