While this was not totally out of the ordinary, what makes it of special interest to Black Catholics is that the consistory will include the creation of the first-ever African American cardinal, Archbishop (now Cardinal-elect) Wilton D. Gregory.
A baker's dozen, including a brown-skinned U.S. native, will don red hats during a ceremony beginning at 10am EST, with the private Mass at the Altar of the Chair in Saint Peter’s Basilica on the 29th at 4am (also EST).
In the roughly 1,200 years that the College of Cardinals has existed in written history (and the roughly 250 years that there has been a United States), the long history of slavery, racism, and even terrorism—imposed by White American Catholics upon their Black Catholic brethren— has resulted in an obvious drought.
The drought has involved a dearth of Black vocations, perhaps chiefly seen in the dearth of Black bishops, archbishops, and, of course, cardinals.
Never has a Black Catholic American voted in a papal conclave. An ecumenical council, either.
Dominica native Joseph Bowers, SVD, who was trained, ordained, and assigned in America, served stateside for 13 years before becoming a bishop—for Accra, Ghana. He attended the Second Vatican Council, which began when he was 52.
The first Black Catholic bishop in America, the White-passing James Healy, was consecrated in 1875—just a half-decade after the First Vatican Council; Harold Perry, SVD, the next overall and first openly-Black American bishop, was consecrated nearly a century later in 1966, just after Vatican II.
On the last day of the current Church year, the day before Advent, everything will change, live on the Vatican's Youtube channel.
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).
Resources to celebrate Cardinal-Designate Gregory's elevation to the College of Cardinals
(courtesy of the Archdiocese of Washington)
Columns by Cardinal-Designate Gregory—in his own words—about being named a Cardinal:
Catechetical bilingual resources:
- Prayer for Cardinal-Designate Gregory – linked here
Informational resources for adults:
- Bishop, Archbishop, Cardinal – linked here
- Holy Orders – linked here
- The Zucchetto – linked here
- Steps to the Consistory – linked here
Resources for children/youth/family:
- Called to Love and Serve – linked here
- Marked to Love and Serve – a Confirmation resource – linked here
- We Have a New Cardinal – linked here
- Family Consistory Celebration – linked here
Ministerial Ongoing Opportunities for Thanksgiving
In gratitude for this gift to our local Church, continue to celebrate and acknowledge the momentous event.
The following parish opportunities focus on thanksgiving and justice:
- Recognize and offer prayers of thanks for the gift of Black Catholics – our family and friends in faith – that came before Cardinal Gregory, who have made made this moment possible. November is Black Catholic History Month.
- Celebrate this moment with service to others. Donate to parish food pantries, selected ADW charities, highlight key Justice/Advocacy work of Cardinal and how parishioners can get involved.
- Learn more about the call to the Justice/Advocacy work of the Cardinal highlighted in the Fratelli Tutti study/prayer resource guide linked here
Highlight the special collaboration of Cardinal Gregory and the Holy Father through these relationship-building strategies for the seasons of Advent and Christmas:
- As a parish, commit to pray for Cardinal Gregory and the Holy Father throughout the seasons of Advent and Christmas—that they have the grace and strength to bring the Good News of Christ to the world in a challenging time.
- Get others involved. Encourage heads of ministry to help in sending celebration notes/cards through Flocknote texts and emails to parishioners, etc.
- Find creative ways to celebrate Advent and Christmas traditions as a parish family.
Reverend Daniel B. Carson
Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia
Archdiocese of Washington