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Black Catholic History Month

Click here to hear Fr. Stan Ilo's talk on Black Catholic History!

On July 24, 1990, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States designated November as Black Catholic History Month to celebrate the long history and proud heritage of Black Catholics. Two commemorative dates fall within this month, Saint Augustine’s Birthday (November 13) and Saint Martin de Porres’ Feast Day (November 3).

Some people forget that Christianity did not originate in Europe – and even express surprise when they learn that Black Catholic History began in the Acts of the Apostles (8:26-40) with the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch by Philip the Deacon. Acts chronicles the conversion of the first Black African in recorded Christian history. The text also suggests that the man was a wealthy, literate, and powerful emissary of the Nubian Queen and also a faithful, practicing Jew prior to his baptism. The Ethiopian Eunuch’s conversion even predates the conversions of Saints Paul and Cornelius. Therefore, most significantly, many cite this conversion as the very moment when the church changed from a Hebrew and Hellenist community to the truly Universal and Catholic Church.

The history of the early Church is the history of Black Catholics. Black Catholics trace their faith roots back to Christian antiquity long before other nations heard the “Good News.” Christian Africa was indeed a “leading light” in early Christendom. Black Catholics point to three popes who were born in Africa: Saints Victor I, Melchiades, and Gelasius I. All three shepherded the early church through tough and tumultuous times in history. Black Catholics claim many Black Saints like: Saints Cyprian, Zeno, Anthony of Egypt, Moses the Black, Pachomius, Maurice, Athanasius, Pisentius, Mary of Egypt, Cyril of Alexandria, Monica of Hippo, Augustine of Hippo, Perpetua, Felicitas, and Thecla. These mystics, monastics, ands, martyrs literally made the church what it is today.

[Text adapted from National Black Catholic Congress: https://www.nbccongress.org/]