On Saturday, May 28th, two of the nation’s African-American seminarians will be ordained to the priesthood, capping off extended formation periods marked by overseas formation, a pandemic, and a unique parish connection.
Deacon Avery Daniel will be ordained at 10am ET at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, Georgia by Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer, OFM Conv. Assisting at the investiture will be Fr Ajani Gibson of St Peter Claver Catholic Church in New Orleans, the nation’s youngest African-American priest.
Daniel is the archdiocese’s lone African-American seminarian and has served as chaplain at Blessed Trinity Catholic High School in Roswell, Georgia since last July, following his ordination as a transitional deacon.
Saturday will bring the culmination of 10 years of formation for Daniel, who spent part of that period studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, beginning in 2015. At the time of his departure overseas, the archdiocesan newspaper noted that he would likely be ordained a priest in June 2019. (Diocesan seminarians normally spend about seven years in seminary.)
On May 18th, the archdiocese announced Daniel’s assignment as parochial vicar of St Joseph Church in Athens and St Catherine Laboure in Jefferson, effective July 1st. He served at St Joseph’s for his first summer assignment as a seminarian in 2012, and the parish is known as the first pastorate of Fr William “Bill” Calhoun—the first Black Catholic priest in Georgia history.
Daniel himself is set to become the first African-American priest ordained in the archdiocese since Fr Desmond Drummer in 2014. An Atlanta metro native, Daniel hails from Sts Peter and Paul Catholic Church, a Black parish in Decatur.
Deacon Carl Gales, SVD, a Phoenix native who served as music director at Sts Peter and Paul from 2008 to 2012, is also being ordained on Saturday, at 10am CT at Our Lady of Africa Catholic Church in Chicago—a historic parish formerly known as Holy Angels and formed from a merger of several Black parishes last year.
Gales entered formation with the Society of the Divine Word in 2014, and graduated from Catholic Theological Union on Thursday. His first assignment as a priest will be at Our Lady of Africa, the site of his preaching and service as a deacon since last fall.
He was ordained there to the transitional diaconate by Chicago’s Black auxiliary bishop, Joseph Perry. Gales will be the first African American ordained for the Society in some time, and another Black prelate—Bishop Emeritus Curtis Guillory, SVD of Beaumont—is slated to perform his ordination to the priesthood.
Our Lady of Africa itself, in its former life as Holy Angels, served as a nexus point for the Black Catholic Movement, which in the late 20th century brought African-American culture and liturgy more fully into Black Catholic parishes and spiritualities. It was one of several historic Black parishes closed or merged by the archdiocese last year.
Both Gales and Daniel are members of the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association, where Gales has served as Midwestern Regional Director. The organization was founded in 1970, as part of the Black Catholic Movement, to support African Americans studying for the priesthood and religious brotherhood.
There are presently estimated to be approximately 30 such men in the United States.
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).