The National Black Catholic Seminarians Association, led by Br. Cursey Calais II, SSJ, released its annual Juneteenth statement this morning, June 19th, commemorating the Black struggle and its outworkings over the course of the past year. It is reprinted here with permission.
On this day 157 years ago, the last African-American chattel slaves were freed in the United States, pursuant to General Order No. 3 issued in Texas by Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army.
Today, however, we stand amazed at both the fervent intensity of our struggle toward authentic freedom since that day, but also the persistent opposition to that struggle from those thought to be our brothers and sisters.
The past year has brought an inordinate amount of pain as we saw Black men, women, and children in the bondage of the state, victims of mass incarceration as well as mass discardment—the “throwaway culture” lamented repeatedly by our Holy Father, Pope Francis.
Many have been executed in an inhumane system that seeks vengeance over rehabilitation, “justice” over mercy, and death over life. Worse still is that the final stamp of approval for such deadly deeds has come, almost without exception, from the US Supreme Court—which is filled with our fellow Catholics.
Ten short days ago, we saw the first fruits of the committee which investigated the assault on our nation’s capital in January 2021, a heinous event in which Christian flags flew, Guadalupe Virgins were displayed, and rosary beads were clutched by the very same hands that sought to overthrow US democracy and its lofty ideals.
Ideals, indeed, they remain.
We, however, will walk in hope. The hope that says a bloody massacre of Black men and women in Buffalo will not stop our march to Zion. The hope that says freedom is not just a word, but a mandate. The hope that says, even as we fight for human dignity, “Give me Jesus”.
“We Shall Overcome” has been our song, booming above all competing choruses of hate and derision, but it is not an eternal song. One day, when the victory is won and the wicked have ceased their troubling, a new song will emerge. A song known by those hardy men, women, and children whose chains were broken on that bright morning in 1865.
Roughly three and a half centuries prior, US Black history on those same Galveston shores began with the arrival of the Catholic explorer Esteban the Moor in 1528. He, too, felt the pains of bondage, and never knew the sweetness of freedom in his earthly sojourn.
We, the Black Catholic seminarians of the United States, stand in his shoes as much as the ancestors’ when we say, without reservation, that our victory march must continue. And surely it must reach its destination. We will keep on singing.
Br. Cursey J. Calais II, SSJ
The National Black Catholic Seminarians Association was founded in 1969 to serve the needs of Black seminarians studying for the priesthood ad religious brotherhood in the United States.