November is National Black Catholic History Month and Campus Ministry will host a virtual talk called “Strong Women Keep A Coming: The Perseverance of Black Women,” on Nov. 16 at 4 p.m. Diana Hayes, professor emerita of systematic theology at Georgetown University will dig deep into Womanist theology. This lecture will be followed by an evening prayer service, “Vespers in the African American Catholic Tradition,” with Kim Harris presiding at Sacred Heart Chapel.
Black Catholics have been on these shores since before America became a country. Harris said it’s important to recognize Black history and its significance in the Catholic Church. “When you review the history of Black Catholics in America, we helped to build this church,” said Harris. “This is our church, some of us were Catholic before we even arrived enslaved or free and we’re not going anywhere.”
Harris was raised Presbyterian and converted to Catholicism after reading Teresa of Ávila’s writings at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Part of her attraction to LMU was its Catholic roots and present experience. “What I appreciate about coming to LMU and being a professor here is that I get to be Catholic and I can say it out loud,” said Harris.
Harris is proud of her Black Catholic experience but she also says the Catholic Church has work to do to make African Americans feel more welcomed and a truly a part of the community. “Not one African American has ever been canonized a saint. We have six African American ‘saints in waiting’ but not one has been so honored by the Church,” said Harris. She said if that were to happen it would hugely significant for African Americans today. “It would mean the holiness that they lived is recognized and they would be lifted up. When people don’t see anyone like them in leadership or canonized it simply feels different.”
In addition, Harris also would like to see a greater number of parish liturgical events that are rooted in Black experiences similar to what will take place at the vespers on LMU’s campus. “I hope people will attend our gathering because we will celebrate the Black Catholic experience and hear the incredible nationally known scholar, Dr. Diana Hayes,” said Harris. “ Great music, will also be a part of the experience and they’re so many pieces to this that says to all, you are welcome.”
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