Rothell Price, a veteran African-American Catholic priest of the Diocese of Shreveport, has been named a monsignor by Pope Francis, following a request made by Bishop Francis Malone earlier this year.
The news was first announced online by his parish, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, where Malone made the announcement during a special ceremony with Price over the weekend.
“It is with great joy that we announce that as of today, Sunday, December 4, 2022, our beloved Father Price is now Monsignor Price!” the parish posted on Facebook.
Price has become the second living monsignor in the Diocese of Shreveport, and the first such African American. In 1989, he was ordained as the first African-American priest in the history of the diocese, which was then only three years old. In 2016, it was estimated to be one of the Blackest in the country by percentage.
Born in Chicago in 1957, Price was raised Baptist and later attended Grambling State University in Grambling, Louisiana, where he studied music education. Like many African-American Protestants in the Windy City during the 20th century, Price had become fascinated with Catholicism and later converted to the faith while in college.
Years after graduating, he matriculated to Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana, receiving his Master of Divinity degree in 1988. Price also earned a licentiate in canon law from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC in 1997.
He has since gone on to serve in a number of pastoral roles, in addition to prestigious positions in the chancery, including as vicar general and judicial vicar. He presently serves as the vicar for clergy, and has been known for his dedication to the diocese’s senior and retired priests. Price also served as a special assistant to the chair of this year’s Louisiana Priest Convention.
“I proposed that the Holy Father be made aware that we have this special priest in our diocese,” Malone said during his announcement on Sunday.
The official text of Malone’s request to Pope Francis also notes that it was made immediately following Price’s official eligibility, as Pope Francis amended common practice in 2013 to require that all such priests be at least 65 years of age. Price celebrated his birthday in May, and Malone’s request was sent shortly thereafter.
Price, who will celebrate his 35th ordination anniversary next year, is believed to be the first new African-American monsignor since Msgr James Boddie Jr. in the Diocese of St. Augustine, who was named as such in June 2021.
The title, which for diocesan priests designates an exemplary clergyman as a Chaplain of His Holiness, dates back to the 17th century when Pope Urban VIII instituted the role as an official function of the papal household.
It has since become an honorary title involving no special duties, though distinct vestments remain a feature of the role.
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).