February is Black History Month in our nation. Every year since 1976 it has been observed but its beginnings are from 1915 — the 50th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln emancipating slaves in the United States. There is a rich heritage and history of African Americans in our own City, too, that stretches back to our founding in 1565. As you can imagine, the history is not always showing our best as humans, but we have to learn from our history so as not to repeat mistakes.
Since the founding of our nation, eleven Catholics have been declared saints — none are black. However, several are on their way to be “raised to the altars.” Among them is Father Augustus Tolton (1854-1897) whose cause for canonization is being shepherded by the Archdiocese of Chicago. Many of you were in the Cathedral last year and saw a dramatization of his life that, in turn, touched our lives. Others include:
Venerable Pierre Touissant (1766-1853), born in Haiti but lived much of his life in New York City where he served the poor with distinction.
Julia Greeley (c. 1833-1918), born as a slave in Missouri, she moved to Colorado where she became known as “Denver’s Angel of Charity.”
Venerable Henrietta Delille (1812-1862) from New Orleans where she found the Sisters of the Holy Family, a congregation of religious in the USA for women of color.
Mother Mary Lange (c. 1784-1882), born in Cuba, she founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence (the first congregation for women of color) and eventually came to Baltimore where she established the first Catholic school for children of color in the Unites States.
Thea Bowman (1937-1990), a convert to Catholicism, she joined the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and became a voice against racism and prejudice.
During this month, look into the lives of these holy ones and rejoice in how they help us know the wonders of God!