I have to tell you this story because it has been weighing heavily on my mind lately ever since the strange conversation took place.
I was at mass a couple of months ago and there was a group of visiting seminarians in the main church of St. Scholastica. To refresh your memory, that’s the church that Presentation-Our Lady of Victory members now attend. We ended up in the back of the chapel and it is our new parish home. So we have not yet fully integrated with St. Scholastica, we are just occupying their building. I don’t think that’s going to last for long. But back to my thought of why I brought up the seminarians.
It made me think about the fact that never since I’ve been in the church has any of our altar boys ever been invited to Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where young men study to become priests. I became aware of this starting back when I was employed with Our Lady of Good Counsel Church on the East Side of Detroit (1998-2005), where I was told by a dear friend, that the boys who were being invited to tour the grounds and contemplate the priesthood were usually of the Caucasian race. Now I hate having to bring up the topic of “race” but its inevitable-it’s the way our country was divided so its in the history.
I mentioned in my book “Our Lady of Victory” that we saw invitations to become priests in the Church Bulletin (with no name) but nothing actually targeting our young boys on a personal level to consider becoming priests.
So when St. Scholastica had eight seminarians visit for mass it got me to thinking again, why are there no Black Priests in any significant numbers in the Archdiocese of Detroit? So I spoke with the pastor after one of our masses. I told him that while I was happy for the young men who are studying to be priest, I wondered why our young boys were never ever invited to consider it with personal invitations too.
He responded by asking me had I ever attended their Religious Education classes in the evenings? I said no, but that I did attend classes in my church and actually brought in new members. He said, “why don’t you attend our evening classes?” I said, “I don’t like to come out that late.” He said, “we can arrange to pick you up.”
How in the world did we get to this conversation? How could he have looked me in the eye and change the topic so completely? I was astounded and speechless. That was his answer? That was all he had to say? Switch the topic so he doesn’t have to answer it? STUNNING!! UNBELIEVABLE!!
I guess I don’t have to wonder any longer why there are no black priest. The Church doesn’t get it and so the issue will never be addressed. I know because I also mentioned this to our own Monsignor. He had no real answers either. I do know that there was one recurring theme that got one priest I know into the priesthood. He was mentored! Someone took the time to spend with him and show him the possibilities. How in the world do you become a priest without someone bringing you in? It doesn’t always happen on its own, especially for black boys who are already unsure of themselves in the larger world just like any other young boy coming of age.
Ladies and Gentleman, need I say more?
I belong to the Knights of Peter Claver, Ladies Auxiliary Court 189 and I am the Treasurer. I’m just trying to fulfill my obligation and then I will re-think whether or not I even want to continue being a Catholic. Our race has dwindled so badly over the years with the policies coming out of the diocese that it is not conducive to growing an African American Catholic Community anymore. They’re making an effort to raise awareness to the problem but as they say, “It’s a day late and a dollar short.” We are way past the time to do something about it.
In order to explain how we arrived at where we are today, you need to know the history. Get a copy and get the lowdown on what really happened. Its a fascinating read.
OUR LADY OF VICTORY THE SAGA OF AN AFRICAN AMERICAN CATHOLIC COMMUNITY
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You are the most refreshing pope since I have been a catholic, which was most of my life. Your coming could not have happened a moment too soon. I am about to be a fallen-away catholic. The policies of the Archdiocese of Detroit is killing my parish. It has been killing it for a long time and now I have had enough.
Researching our history has opened my eyes to the mean-spiritness of the hiarchy that has shaped this region for many years. Had you been at the helm a lot of this anti-christian behavior might not have festered. As you know, the Catholic Church is made up of many ethnic groups. All have been treated well with policies that helped them to thrive. Not so in the black catholic community. We were never allowed to have a pastor. All we ever got were administrators and it has had a devastating impact on our little community.
So here I am today. I have had enough. The diocese’ policy of allowing a deacon to become the administrator of our church; and having a priest say mass on Sundays, has had a negative impact on our spiritual lives; and is the “straw that broke the camels back.” To get into details would mean sharing a letter I sent to the deacon with a copy going to the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Changing Lives Together Fundraising Campaign, in which I cancelled my pledge. Boy did that get their attention. When it comes to money they react. That’s all they are driven by is money. And our spiritual needs are neglected.
Pope Francis, you need to make a trip to the United States and specifically visit our little community. You will get a real look at a dying church community. I know you will not be happy with what you find. So while you are chastising the leaders about their rhetoric on gays, abortion, and birth control, perhaps you might want to add a little bit about the racism that has been allowed to fester in the Catholic Church as well. We are not getting the sacraments the way we used to nor are our voices being heard. My book might go a long way in helping you to understand what has happened here. This problem is every bit as debilitating as the other issues facing the church.
And so I have stopped going to my church. I never thought that I would allow someone else to dictate when I would make my exit, if I ever did. But it happened and so I am pondering my next move. In the meantime, I did get a response from the diocese but I don’t believe it will result in any significant changes in how they deal with us.
We shall see. Stay tuned!
The main reason I was inspired to write the book was to fill a glaring omission of history. Working at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in a second career opened my eyes to the fact that there is just not a lot of black people represented at all levels of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s catholic community. I found that to be quite unsettling when I looked at how I was raised…in a black community and black catholic church. It didn’t allow me any room to understand that my race was not the only race represented in the scheme of things. It was like a culture shock as I discuss in the book under “A personal Perspective”. You’ll have to read it for yourself to get the full picture.
I also learned that there is a lot of hurt out there by folks who were raised in the catholic schools (didn’t necessarily become Catholics) and some (Catholics) came away with bad experiences. Fortunately for me, my experiences were minimal compared to others who grew up with me. But I discuss my pains and hurts while trying not to knock the Catholic Church, which was pretty darn hard to do.
Anyway, I was on a mission to get our rightful place in history, including being able to find something about our community on the internet, because when I started out, there was nothing and I do mean literally nothing. Now you can search under my name and “Our Lady of Victory, Detroit” will come up and you won’t just get OLV in Novi which is what was coming up when I got started on this project. There is still room for improvement on what comes up but its a start.
So I can say, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! And know that if I don’t sell any more books, it won’t change the fact that our name is out there now.