For the second year in a row, the Josephites’ St. Ann Catholic Church in Baltimore will kick off Black Catholic History Month with an All Saints Day Mass on November 1 in support of the six African-American Catholics on the path to sainthood.
The liturgy, which accompanies efforts from parishioners petitioning Pope Francis to expedite their canonizations, will be celebrated by Josephite superior general John H. Ricard, bishop emeritus of Pensacola-Tallahassee and a former Baltimore auxiliary.
“In 2022, there are no Black Catholics from the United States who have ever been acknowledged as saints, while there are 12 White American saints,” reads a press release from the committee behind the petition efforts.
“The initiative, led by Saint Ann Church, has challenged the Catholic process for designating saints: it is long, expensive and has produced non-representative results.”
Since their first All Saints Day Mass in 2021, the committee has mailed upwards of 3,000 letters to Pope Francis and to the US apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, seeking to advance the causes of Venerables Augustus Tolton, Henriette DeLille, and Pierre Toussaint, as well as Servants of God Julia Greeley, Mary Lange, and Thea Bowman.
An online petition has also gained 1,500 signatories as of Saturday morning, but the committee says neither the Holy Father nor the nuncio has acknowledged receipt of any physical documents.
“The Social Justice Committee of St. Ann is making plans to travel to Rome to hand-deliver copies of the letter to the Vatican,” the committee said.
Their Mass next month, which will feature a joint gospel choir from three Baltimore parishes pastored by the Josephites’ Fr Xavier Edet, follows the religious society’s public endorsement of the St. Ann campaign earlier this year, including a temporary online petition form and email communications encouraging new supporters to sign on.
The initiative also picked up steam in dioceses outside of Baltimore, including with a mention at the USCCB’s 2021 fall assembly by Bishop John P. Dolan (then of San Diego), and a series of virtual prayer services from the Black Catholic ministry in the Diocese of Buffalo.
The letter-writing occasioned coverage from Baltimore’s secular and Catholic media, as well as the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. It was also covered internationally by the Daily Mail and in at least one non-English language publication.
There are currently no African Americans who have reached even beatification, the penultimate stage before canonization as a saint, and the extended delay has been a source of consternation for years among many Catholics.
Maintaining a sainthood cause to its completion is also known to be prohibitively expensive, alleged to average around half a million dollars before reforms instituted under Pope Francis beginning in 2016.
“If it is wrong now—and it is—fix it now,” the Baltimore committee said this week, concerning the African-American causes specifically.
“St. Ann Church and the Pastorate believe the first six African American saints from the U.S. in Catholic Church will be canonized much sooner than later.”
Tuesday’s Mass will begin at 7pm ET, and inquiries can be directed to committee leaders Ralph Moore or Delores Moore at 443-255-5600 or 443-535-3388, respectively.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).