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EXCLUSIVE: Knights of Peter Claver planning first council in Orange County, California

The largest Black Catholic organization in the country is seeking members for its first-ever council in America's sixth-largest county.

Recruitment efforts are underway to found the first Knights of Peter Claver council in Orange County, California.

The effort, in the country's 10th-largest diocese, is being led by Gunnar Gundersen—the first-ever Ordinariate member of the order.

"I have the full support of the Ordinariate and its local Orange County parish, Saint John Henry Newman Catholic Church in Irvine, [for the parish] to serve as headquarters for a future council," Gundersen told BCM Tuesday evening.

"The council will be open to all Catholics, not just Ordinariate members, that are interested in the mission of the Knights of Peter Claver."

Though it is not well-known (and though Black membership in the Ordinariate is low), Servant of God Sister Dr. Thea Bowman, the only 20th-century Black Catholic officially on the path to sainthood, was reared in the Methodist tradition—one of the Anglican-heritage Protestant movements, converts from which comprise the Ordinariate.

Having converted at age 9 in the 1940s, Bowman is also the only one of the six venerated African-Americans to have played a personal role in the Black Catholic Movement, which produced today's well-known "Gospel Mass" tradition.

As such, she is among those whom Gundersen associates with the success of his efforts, and may play a patronal role for the council (and perhaps the larger Ordinariate) in the near future.

"Many thanks to [KPC Executive Director] Grant Jones and Gregory Warner, Sr., who helped this to get this started, and to Bishop Lopes and Fathers Glenn Baaten and Evan Simington for their support—and all those who have been supporting these efforts with their prayers. Please keep praying for our efforts...
Servant of God, Sister Thea Bowman, pray for us!"

Updates will be posted on the SJHN website in the coming weeks, including a link to a recruitment website.

Interested parties can reach Gundersen on Twitter or at

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder of Black Catholic Messenger, a priesthood applicant with the Josephites, and a ThM student w/ the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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