History of the Office for Black Catholics
The Office for Black Catholics, formerly called the Office for the Black Apostolate, became a distinct component of the Archdiocesan Office for Urban Ministry in 1979-80. As such, the office planned, developed and coordinated the Church’s Apostolate to the African American Catholic community and the community in general.
In July 1980, Mr. John Mosley was appointed by John Cardinal Krol, Archbishop of Philadelphia, Acting Director of the Office for the Black Apostolate. Although the names and programs have changed over the years, the mission of the Office for Black Catholics has been the same. The mission is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and facilitate full, active and conscious participation of the African American community in the life of the Catholic Church. Some of the programs and initiatives of the Office for Black Catholics are: coordinating the Annual Celebration of the feast of Saint Martin de Porres, efforts to bring Black culture through music with the Saint Martin de Porres Mass Choir, participation in the National Black Catholic Congresses, Kujenga programs for youth, Effective Black Parenting Program, Family Focus Day, collaboration with Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary for the Certificate in Ministry to Black Catholics (MBC), commemoration of the National Holiday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by coordinating an Annual Interfaith Prayer Service, promotion of vocations to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Religious Life among African American Catholics, collaborating with community groups to promote peace and anti-violence, witnessing to the Gospel of Life with pro-life programs and supporting the efforts of evangelization and catechesis of the Saint Peter Claver Center for Evangelization.
In 2008, the Office for Black Catholics began to administer the Monsignor John Mitchell Memorial Scholarship Fund to financially support academically gifted African American Catholic students pursuing education in Catholic High Schools. To date, twenty scholars have been named. During the tenure of the Office for Black Catholics, several outstanding events occurred: the first class of African American Deacons was ordained for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1982. From that class emerged one who later became a priest: the Reverend Monsignor Albert V. Norrell, now deceased, and whose last assignment was pastor of Saint Carthage (now Saint Cyprian) Church. Since that time there have been several classes of Black Deacons ordained for the Archdiocese.
Affiliated with the Office for Black Catholics for most of its twenty-five years was a program called Black Culture through Music, coordinated by Mrs. Alice M. Parker. This program brought religious music in the African American idiom (or expression) to students in Catholic Schools and continued with mass choirs assembled to celebrate the annual Saint Martin de Porres Mass. In 1987, the Office coordinated a Philadelphia delegation to the first National Black Catholic Congress in almost a century. The first Black Catholic Lay Congress took place January 1-4, 1889, and was a tremendous success. It was followed by a series of lay Congresses until the fifth and final one of the 19th century. The congresses demonstrated that not only did a black Catholic community exist, but that it was active, devoted, articulate and proud. It also demonstrated that given the opportunity, there was real leadership within the black Catholic community. It was not until 1987 that another congress (IX) was convened and it was the beginning of a new emergence of black Catholic pride and contribution.
The National Black Catholic Congress now convenes every five years, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has always participated in these historic occasions.In 2012, the OBC coordinated one of the largest delegations ever to Congress by sending 112 members to Congress XI. Through the blessed support of the Martin de Porres Foundation and the encouragement and generosity of Pastors and Parishes from the Black Apostolate, our Archdiocese provided major input into the shaping and implementation of the National Black Catholic Congress XI Pastoral Plan.
The Office for Black Catholics has been coordinating and implementing programs in the Archdiocese for all Catholics but particularly for African American Catholics. Motivating people to do great things has been its task. The OBC will continue the process of development and growth among Black Catholics and will continue to demonstrate to the broader community who we are (a people of uncommon faithfulness) and whose we are (a people of Jesus Christ).
DIRECTORS OF THE OFFICE FOR BLACK CATHOLICS:
- John Mosley 1980
- Marie Drew 1981 – 1987
- Deacon Stephen Hannum 1987 – 1990
- Linda Love 1991 – 1997
- Sister Boreta Singleton, IHM 1998 – 2002
- Patricia Shelton 2002 – 2004
- Reverend Stephen D. Thorne 2004 – 2011
- Deacon Bill Bradley 2011 – 2017
- Reverend Richard Owens O.F.M. Cap 2017-2020
- Mr. James E. Andrews 2020-2022