WASHINGTON — On Friday morning in DC, five young members of the Society of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart (the Josephites) will renew their religious promises in the historic community serving African Americans.
The event will cap off the seminarians’ annual weeklong spring retreat, and will be officiated by the Josephites’ superior general, Bishop Emeritus John Ricard, SSJ of Pensacola-Tallahassee.
Br Cursey "CJ" Calais, SSJ, an African-American Louisiana native in formation as a religious brother, will be installed as an acolyte on Saturday alongside Nigerian classmates Henry Ihuoma, SSJ; Wisdom Umanah, SSJ; and George Liwhuliwhe, SSJ—who are studying to become priests.
Dominic Njoku, SSJ will be installed as a reader, the first of the two ministries received by Catholic seminarians before making perpetual vows/promises near the end of their seminary formation.
Saturday’s ceremony will take place during a Mass at St Joseph Seminary in Brookland at 4:30pm ET.
Calais studies at Ven. Fulton Sheen Seminary, operated by the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE), while his classmates study at the USCCB-run Catholic University of America, the national Catholic university of the United States. He also serves as president of the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association.
Since 2021, Calais has served as a certified nursing assistant in the senior residence of the Josephites at St Joseph’s. He is also a liturgical emcee for the society and is a member of the Civil Air Patrol, the civilian auxiliary of the US Air Force.
He completed his novitiate and made first promises alongside the other three members of his class in 2020, and they first renewed their promises in Spring 2021. The group received the ministry of lector in a ceremony at the seminary last December.
The four are expected to make perpetual promises in the society later this year, followed by the ordination of Ihuoma, Umanah, and Liwhuliwhe to the transitional diaconate. Calais' classmate at the IVE seminary, Dcn Joseph Kikanda, SSJ, a transitional deacon since December 2021, will be ordained to the priesthood on October 22nd in DC.
On June 19th of this year (Juneteenth), the society’s three novices—Nigerian natives Linus James, Augustus Dominic, and Charles Nwamadi—will make their first promises at the society’s oldest parish in New Orleans, Blessed Sacrament-St Joan of Arc Catholic Church, where they have been under the director of novice master Fr Roderick Coates, SSJ since last year.
The three seminarians will return to DC in the fall, making way for the new novices in New Orleans, Justus Ihemawulotu and Alexander Lema.
The Josephites—founded in 1893 and serving in roughly 40 parishes across the South, DC, Baltimore, and in Los Angeles—have arguably the highest concentration of Black seminarians anywhere in the country, with 12 Africans and two Americans currently in formation in DC, and several more studying at a minor seminary in Nigeria.
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).