Three Catholics long involved in sharing the experience of black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington were honored Nov. 12 at a Black Catholic History Month celebration at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Washington.
Msgr. Raymond East, Jacqueline Wilson and Deacon Al Turner were honored as “three lives who have given steadfast witness to black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington,” said Sandra Coles-Bell, program director for the archdiocesan Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach.
The celebration also included Mass celebrated by Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville. Msgr. Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Parish served as homilist at the Mass, and Josephite Father Thomas Frank, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, was a concelebrant.
Msgr. Raymond East, pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Washington, is well known for his work in liturgy, youth ministry and evangelization and is a nationally known speaker and retreat leader.
“Msgr. East broke through barriers and we all know his joy,” Msgr. Pope said.
Jacqueline Wilson, who served from 1979 to 2002 as director of the Office of Black Catholics for the Archdiocese of Washington, is the author of several books and helped establish the Black Catholic Revivals, the Rejoice Conference on Black Catholic Liturgy, and Sisters in the Spirit.
“She unlocked so much information and explained it in such a gracious way,” Msgr. Pope said.
Deacon Al Turner, also a former director of the archdiocese’s Office of Black Catholics, formerly served as coordinator of liturgy in the archdiocesan Office of Worship and is a member of the Mother Lange Guild, which is promoting the canonization cause of the foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence.
Msgr. Pope praised the deacon for “his gentle but firm resolve.”
Noting that “there is something glorious about the African-American worship experience in the Catholic Church,” Msgr. Pope said black Catholic worship “is plugged into the culture and finds out what is good and sacred.”
He added that the gospel music sung in African-American parishes “is all about God and what He has done and what He will do.”
“What makes us God’s people is that we are looking at God and awaiting His blessing with deep, stable, confident and serene joy,” he added. “The Church is a medicine for us. It has to be a part of our lives.”
He added that people should attend Mass with joy and expectation because “we are going to hear the Word of God and the Lord in in this place.” He added that joy should always mark worship because “the Church is a bride, not a widow, but a bride.”
Prior to the end of the Mass, the honorees were presented with plaques of appreciation.
Wilson said that many people have worked to make known the experience of black Catholics “and in a way they earned this honor, too.”
“Black Catholics need to know that we are included when they say ‘the Catholic Church,’” Wilson said. “We have to share the gifts and talents that God has given us. God has only our hands to build the Church and to be lovers of Jesus Christ.”
Msgr. East called the celebration “a sign of gratitude for the gift of our faith and the gift of our ancestry and the call to holiness we all have.”
Bishop Dorsonville praised the honorees for sharing the richness of black Catholic faith with the whole Church.
Prior to the Mass, the Archdiocese of Washington Mass Choir led a praise and worship service. After the Mass, the faithful continued to celebrate Black Catholic History Month by venerating African saints with song, reflection and prayer.