In an inauguration ceremony saturated with the faith, there was one hidden Catholic figure that slipped even my own eye.
Most of the world knows that President Biden is a practicing Catholic, and also that Kamala Harris was also sworn in by Catholic Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Many are even aware that Lady Gaga, perhaps the day’s principal musician, is known to attend Mass as well.
But contrary to my claim yesterday that no notable Black participants in the proceedings are Catholic, the reality is that the nation’s youngest poet laureate (and newest celebrity best-seller), Amanda Gorman, is.
Yes, despite the media and the masses alike being unaware, the best-dressed lady of the day, speaking the day’s best words, is herself a Mass-going practitioner.
Her parish, St Brigid’s in Los Angeles, is even staffed by the Josephites, the society of priests founded to (and who still) serve African-Americans as a rule. (A priest in the society reached out to me with the news, circulated in an email this morning from a diocesan priest in New Orleans.)
The society celebrated 125 years in 2018, and the church celebrated its centennial last year. The pastor, Fr Kenneth Keke, SSJ, tells me plans in the works for an event celebrating Gorman as well.
Gorman’s Catholicity, while obviously somewhat private, was not totally unknown to the internet before today, as the parish itself announced its connection to her almost a week ago, when she was first announced as receiving the honor—which, by the way, was Dr. Biden’s idea.
They shouted her out again on the morning of the event, as she delivered “The Hill We Climb”, a stirring poem she wrote earlier this month—half before the DC terrorist attack, and the other half the night after.
During and after the address, she became a household name, gaining millions of social media followers in a matter of hours and experiencing a meteoric rise to the top of the Amazon book charts (#1 and #2, to be specific, as her second poetry collection and debut children’s book are both due on September 21st).
Unranked for now are her (apparently out-of-print) debut poetry book from 2015 and a special edition print run of the inauguration poem, due April 27—just in time for the end of classes at Harvard.
First named the LA Youth Poet Laureate six and a half years ago, Gorman went on to become the inaugural national youth laureate while working toward her sociology degree there in Cambridge.
She graduated last Spring, and it looks like her career is already off to a summery start.
I’m told her grandmother, a parishioner at Old St Mary’s in Chicago, is “very, very proud.”
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder of Black Catholic Messenger, a priesthood applicant with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).