REFLECTION: Scholar recounts Black Catholics’ rich history

by Kevin J. Jones, Catholic News Agency

Black Catholics across the globe have dedicated their talents and their lives to their faith since earliest days of the Church, a Catholic author and scholar has said.

“Black Catholicism is not something new. From the very first century, people of color have been involved in the universal Church,” Dr. Camille Brown, author of the 2008 book “African Saints, African Stories,” told CNA.

Father Augustus Tolton

Father Augustus Tolton

“They have embraced the Universal Church with courage and with love of the Lord, just like everyone else.”

Brown noted that this history dates back to events recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, where Philip the Apostle preached the gospel to an Ethiopian who “returned home rejoicing.”

“We have scriptural evidence that the Gospel and the message of Our Lord Jesus Christ went to Africa from early on,” she said.

“We have men and women of color from Africa who loved the Lord, who were martyrs for the Church and are definitely a part of our history. We cannot forget that it’s nothing new,” Brown said.

An associate superintendent of Archdiocese of Baltimore schools, Brown has also taught a course on the history of black Catholics at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.

Brown’s book lists “over 400 people of color who are identified saints.” Her own count exceeds 700 people, though she added that the racial identification of some saints is debated.

“They were ordinary men and women just like us who just tried to love Jesus. Many were martyred,” she said…

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