WASHINGTON — The Society of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, also known as the Josephites, will celebrate final professions and ordinations later this fall in the nation’s capital, the former including an African American from Louisiana.
Opelousas native Br Cursey “CJ” Calais II, SSJ is in formation for religious brotherhood and studies at Venerable Fulton Sheen Seminary in Chillum, Maryland, operated by the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE).
He has served as president of the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association since 2017 and will be the first African American to make final promises with the Josephites in roughly two decades.
As a religious brother, Calais will be a full member of the 129-year-old community but will remain a layperson. He is currently a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and assists with retired priests in residence at St. Joseph’s Seminary in DC.
He told BCM that it’s “joyful” to approach the end of traditional religious formation and be “fully welcomed into the community”—especially as a member of the population the Society serves.
“It’s a wonderful experience to continue the legacy of African-American Josephites, especially as a member of a younger generation.”
Also making final profession are three Josephites who originally hail from Nigeria: Brs George Agwu, Henry Ihuoma, Wisdom Umanah, who are completing their final year of theology courses at the USCCB’s Catholic University of America. They received the ministry of acolyte with Calais in May.
The profession ceremony will take place during a Mass on Thursday, December 1 at 4:30pm ET celebrated by Bishop Emeritus John H. Ricard, SSJ of Pensacola-Tallahassee, who has served as the Josephites’ superior general since 2019.
Agwu, Ihuoma, and Umanah are scheduled to be ordained to the transitional diaconate on Saturday, December 3 at Incarnation Catholic Church in DC’s Anacostia neighborhood at 10am.
The Mass will also feature the ordination of Dcn Joseph Kikanda, SSJ, a Congolese-born American who recently graduated from the Fulton Sheen Seminary.
Kikanda's will be the first priesthood ordination for the Josephites since 2020, when Fr Freddie Kaddu, SSJ was ordained under lockdown circumstances early on in the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, this fall’s events will mark a return to normalcy for the Josephites, who have 18 men currently in formation stateside for religious life and the priesthood.
The community has arguably the highest concentration of Black seminarians anywhere in the country, with 13 Africans and two African Americans in DC, and several Nigerians completing undergraduate studies overseas.
Serving in roughly 40 parishes across the South, DC, Baltimore, and Los Angeles, the Josephites were founded in 1893 and continue their original mission of serving exclusively in the African-American community.
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).