By Deacon Al Anderson, Jr. Black Catholic Ministries
For the third year in a row, the Black Catholic Ministries for the Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Multicultural Ministries has presented a display at the Manassas African-American Heritage Festival. Over the years the festival has grown to include more than 125 exhibitors, including arts and crafts dealers, retailers of African Wares, church groups, youth groups, colleges and school exhibits, Health Fair, Business and Job Expos, Classic Car Show and great food vendors.
Our Black Catholic Ministries displays have routinely drawn fallen-away Catholics, curiosity seekers, and others into meaningful discussions. This year’s festival was no exception. What a wonderful opportunity for evangelization!
We met one lady (we’ll call her “Sue”) who was a cradle Catholic, but stopped going to church many years ago. Sue’s mother remained faithful to the practice of the faith and continues to pray for Sue’s “reversion” . Sue shared with me that this was her first Festival, but for some reason felt drawn to this year’s event. When she came across our display table she knew she had to stop and talk. We had a very good conversation and she is seriously considering coming back to Church. Praise God!
We also met an inter-racial Catholic couple who was looking for information about Black Catholics to share with their son. We were able to share with them:
- The stories of the four African-American Catholics who currently have causes being promoted for canonization: Venerable Pierre Toussaint; Servant of God, Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange; Venerable Mother Henriette Delille, and Servant of God, Fr. Augustus Tolton.
- The histories of several Black Catholic religious orders, including: the Josephites (an active order of priests and brothers founded after the Civil War to minister to the spiritual and material needs of newly freed slaves), the Oblate Sisters of Providence (the oldest order of Black Catholic nuns in the world), and the Sisters of the Holy Family (The 2nd oldest order of Black Catholic nuns).
- Information about the Knights and Ladies of Peter Claver – originally founded November 7, 1909 in Mobile Alabama as an organization to allow men and women of color membership in a Catholic fraternal, family-oriented, society.
Each year we have been blessed to have opportunities for dialogue with folks who are curious about Catholicism; have questions about what we believe; or are looking for a way “back home”. All the while enjoying great food, wonderful music, beautiful antique cars, and genuine, warm-hearted fellowship! Even the torrential rains which came at the end of the day couldn’t dampen the spirits of the good people there! Hope to see y’all there next year!