CHARLESTON, S.C. (CNS) -- Sister Roberta Fulton, principal
of St. Martin de Porres School in Columbia, gets excited every year about National Black
Catholic History Month.
She said that during the November celebration, she looks for
ways to share how black Catholics have helped make the church what it is today.
principal, a member of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur of Buffalo, New York, is
from Kingstree and noted that as the only black religious sister from the state
of South Carolina, she is a living example of what the month is all about.
Catholic History Month was initiated in 1990 by the National Black Catholic
Clergy Caucus of the United States. November was chosen because it holds two
commemorative dates for prominent African Catholics: St. Augustine of Hippo, whose
birthday is Nov. 13; and St. Martin de Porres, whose feast day is Nov. 3.
St. Martin de Porres School kicks off the month by celebrating the feast
of the school's patron. The well-known saint is followed by
lessons on lesser known figures, such as the three African popes -- Sts.
Victor I, Melchiades and Gelasius I
-- who led the early church through much turmoil.
dozen saints fill the pages of history, from Monica and Augustine of Hippo to
Perpetua and Felicitas.
There also are many new names of black Catholic church figures up for canonization, including religious from the Oblate
Sisters of Providence and Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary.
Both of these orders have served in the Diocese of Charleston.
Roberta said the schoolteachers evangelize while they teach, making it fun
through trivia, spelling bees, bingo and more.
so excited," she told The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the
statewide Diocese of Charleston. "It's a big celebration for us. We try
people to the richness of the history."
Charleston Diocesan Office of Ethnic Ministries offers the following ideas for
celebrating the month:
-- Read "The
History of Black Catholics in the United States" by Benedictine Father
Cyprian Davis, who was known as the top chronicler of black Catholic
Sisters of Providence: A Pictorial History" by Sharon C. Knecht; and/or
Augustus Tolton: The First Recognized Black Catholic Priest in America"
Corinna Laughlin and Maria Laughlin.
about "What We Have Seen and Heard: A Reflection and Dialogue on Peace,"
a pastoral letter written by Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois.
youth in discussion using the new African American Catholic Youth Bible.
-- Hold a
music night on "Negro Spirituals."
-- Show the
movie "Bakhita: From Slave to Saint," about St. Josephine Bakhita, who
was kidnapped at age 6 by Arab slave traders. Treated brutally, she was
sold and resold five times. Sold to an Italian diplomat when she was
still a teen, she met the Canossian Sisters. She was baptized in 1890,
was freed and professed vows in the order in 1896. She died in 1947 and
was canonized in 2000.
-- Display the
pictorial exhibit of the "History of Black Catholics in the Diocese of
-- Give copies
of "My Little Black Catholic History Book" to children.
Catholic history dates back to the Acts of the Apostles with the conversion of
the Ethiopian eunuch by St. Philip the Evangelist.
National Black Catholic Congress notes the importance of the text from Acts for several
reasons. It chronicles the conversion of the first black African in recorded
Christian history. The text 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 and that his conversion takes place before that of St. Paul's.