By Liz Faublas
On the first weekend of Black History Month, the Catholic faith was front and center at the annual archdiocesan Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Manhattan.
A call to service, unity and faith – and of course, what’s a celebration without song?
Powerful, charismatic sounds of celebration, praise and prayer erupted from hundreds gathered to celebrate Black History Month and the National Day of Prayer for the African American and African Family.
The annual Mass is a tribute to the historic contributions of African Americans and a call for many to come together as one. Retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq of Brooklyn served as the principal celebrant of the Mass.
“Many times, we diversify and sometimes we take diversity as a cause for separation and division. There is unity in diversity and diversity in unity,” said Bishop Sansaricq.
Brother Tyrone Davis, C.F.C., the director of the Office of Black Ministry of the New York Archdiocese, helped organize the program, which also honored the legacy of service and faithfulness of historically black fraternities and sororities.
Many of them are members of the Catholic community and they are known as the “Divine Nine.”
“The nine black fraternities and sororities have been in existence starting in the early 1900s. They are a group that has been deeply committed service and a faith-filled group too. And some of those who are members are also serving in Catholic churches,” said Brother Tyrone.
Priests from various dioceses helped concelebrate the Mass. The faithful raised their hands and voices in prayer as the theme for the liturgy, “Serving Our Brothers and Sisters,” echoed throughout the historic cathedral.
Homilist Father Andrew Smith, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Ill., affirmed another common thread.
“We pray for all of those who are struggling – whether it be spiritually, psychologically or emotionally, everybody is dealing with something,” said Smith.
The special Mass was a rousing start to Black History Month that many agree must not end with the final blessing.
“From here, we challenge our communities and empower our communities,” said Dr. Ansel Augustine from the Archdiocese of New Orleans, La.