By Antonina Zielinska
Black Catholics from the Dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre made their way to the Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston, on one of the coldest days of the year, Feb. 14, to give thanks and praise to God in honor of Black History Month.
“Oppression slavery, prejudice and discrimination have marred our painful journey to this day,” said retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq, diocesan vicar of Black Catholic Concerns. “Yet, in spite of so many fierce storms, our ship has not sunk, our people survived.
“As Catholic Christians, we have to always remember that the path to real success passes through Calvary. Harsh discipline, robust virtue, prayerfulness and sacramental communion with the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist provide the necessary energy and wisdom for true victory.”
Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri, III, O.F.M. from the Archdiocese of New Orleans was the main celebrant at the nearly three-hour eucharistic liturgy. He was joined by dozens of priests, deacons and seminarians, Bishop Sansaricq and Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Brennan of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Before the start of the liturgy, a half-hour cultural event of prayer, singing and dancing honored the community’s ancestors including: Mother Henriette de Lille, Daniel Rudd, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Mary Lange.
“We need Black History Month to take possession of their legacy and continue to walk on the blazing trails they treaded,” Bishop Sansaricq said.
Darcel Whitten-Wilamowski, coordinator of the Rockville Centre Catholics of African Ancestry Ministry, led the cultural event together with the choir she founded 30 years ago, the Sister Thea Bowman, d.r.v.c./Mass Choir.
“Let us give thanks for the opportunity for our two dioceses to celebrate our ancestry together for the first time in so many years,” she said. “Let us reach our brothers and sisters of other cultures and hues who have joined us for this liturgy, which is not just a celebration of us alone but is a celebration of the Church and its wondrous diversity.”
During his homily, Bishop Cheri invited the congregation to continuously take a personal inventory to make sure they take advantage of the gifts God has bestowed upon them.
“If black Catholics are going to be of use to God to bring peace to the Catholic Church, we must have the help of Christ,” he said. “The world can be tolerant, but we are called to love one another despite our flaws.”
“We are not to think that other people are better than us,” the bishop said of Jesus’ call to serve one another in unity. “It means that when there is a conflict between our needs and their needs we should yield to their needs.”
“This requires daily attention to prayer, constant submission to God and acting even when we don’t feel like it,” he said. “The only way we can do this is if we experience unconditional love.”
If a believer is open to this love, then he or she will experience “a certain peace that the world did not give and the world cannot take away.”
To find out about other upcoming Black History Month events, see this week’s Around the Diocese.