The Knights of Peter Claver & Ladies Auxiliary, the largest Black Catholic organization in the United States, is holding a virtual initiation this Saturday, March 6th.
The event comes in light of the order’s decision to forgo in-person events thus far in the pandemic, alongside a recent shift to an online sign-up process that has brought in a number of new members nationwide.
Instead of delaying initiations for these new members indefinitely, Supreme Knight and CEO James K. Ellis, Supreme Lady Micaela Leblanc, and their national boards determined that virtual is viable.
They announced as much on December 15th, and the March date for the Knights was revealed a little over a month later.
The Ladies Auxiliary spearheaded the virtual initiation process last month, holding the order's first such event on January 30th. Another was held February 27th. A total of 75 new Ladies were brought into the Noble Order across these dates, and another 25 are scheduled to enter on March 27th.
Several dozen brother initiates will be inducted to the third degree of the order Saturday morning, with the ceremony including Cardinal Gregory (himself a longtime knight), and several past Grand Knights.
Evidenced by these events themselves, the oldest extant association of Black Catholics in the United States has found ways to grow and remain active in a variety of ways.
The order has also become more active on social media in recent months, amidst the current social climate that has Americans online more than ever. They have also conducted a number of virtual events, and have more scheduled in the coming weeks.
The Knights and Ladies also have also expanded membership into new spaces in recent years, founding their first collegiate unit in 2018 at Xavier University of Louisiana and seeding their first council in Orange County, California last year—led by their first Ordinariate (i.e., canonically Anglican-tradition) member.
This weekend’s event looks to be their latest groundbreaking move.
(This story has been corrected to include the initiation dates pertaining to the Ladies of the order, and to remove reference to the March 6th initiation being the order's first.)
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, in priesthood formation with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).