Archbishop Wilton Gregory will celebrate a Sept. 9 Mass at noon at St. Peter Claver Church in St. Inigoes, Maryland. The Mass – offered on the feast day of the parish – is part of a nationwide Day of Fasting and Prayer called for by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to make reparation for the sin of racism and to recommit to seeking racial justice.

“We reiterate the value of those whose human life and dignity in this country are marginalized through racism and our need to fight for them including the unborn,” Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, and chairman of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, said in announcing the day of fasting and prayer.

Bishop Fabre requested that the faithful fast and pray on Aug. 28 – the 57th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – or on Sept. 9, the Feast of St. Peter Claver.

“We urge Catholics to consider attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and offer your participation in reparation for sins of racism to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” he said.

St. Peter Claver was a late 16th to early 17th century Jesuit priest who was born in Spain and ministered to captured and enslaved Africans who were transported to Colombia. For more than 30 years, he would board arriving slave ships, offering food and medicine, tending to the sick and dying, teaching the Catholic faith and administering the sacraments. He would follow the enslaved Africans to the plantations where they were sent and would beg plantation owners to treat the enslaved humanely. It is estimated that he baptized about 300,000 people.

He was canonized in 1888 by Pope Leo XIII and proclaimed the patron saint of enslaved persons and those who minister to all African peoples. The Knights of Peter Claver, named in honor of the saint, is the largest African-American Catholic fraternal organization in the United States.

The Sept. 9 Mass is planned by the Archdiocese of Washington’s Secretariat for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns and the Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach. Father Scott Woods, pastor of St. Peter Claver Parish and also of St. Cecilia Parish in St. Mary’s City, will concelebrate.

St. Peter Claver Church is located at 16922 Saint Peter Claver Road in St Inigoes, Maryland. Because of attendance limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mass will be recorded on video by the archdiocese and shared on social media later that afternoon. 

Archbishop Gregory celebrated a Mass of Peace and Justice at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Aug. 28, 2020 on the day of the anniversary of the March on Washington. At that Mass, he announced the Archdiocese of Washington's new initiative, “Made in God’s Image: Pray and Work to End the Sin of Racism,” which will promote pastoral activities and outreach including prayer, listening sessions, faith formation opportunities and social justice work.