Up Front and Personal

Honoring a Storied Past, Working Toward A Blessed Future

By Shaniqua X. Wilson

Servant of God, Sister Thea Bowman, taught us we can be truly Catholic and authentically black. I bring my blackness, songs, dancing, time, talents, and love to a Church that hasn’t always loved me.

My ministry began at the age of 5 at St. Bonaventure-St. Benedict the Moor Church in Jamaica. Confirmed by Auxiliary Bishop Emerson Moore (the first black bishop in New York State), I was honored to be the youngest member of the delegation that traveled with him to tour Italy and ultimately sing at a papal audience for Pope St. John Paul II, in the Summer of 1989.

[Related: Saints in the Making]

I participated in the 1993 Denver World Youth Day, where I represented the Office of Black Ministry, under the direction of Father Martin Carter, who began the Kujenga Leadership Conferences. I attended the first five conferences and am what is affectionately called a “Kujenga Baby.” I was a junior daughter of the Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary (KPCLA), and recently I joined the Ladies Auxiliary Court #333.

The Knights of Peter Claver (KPC) was founded by four Josephite priests and three Black Catholic laymen in Alabama on November 7, 1909, because black men were denied admission into existing lay Catholic fraternal organizations.

The KPC was named after the 17th century Spanish Jesuit who spent decades ministering to hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans in South America. Today there are nearly 1,000 active KPC units, including Councils (men) and Courts (women), plus more than 200 Junior Branches (boys) and Junior Courts (girls). Membership is open to all Catholics, regardless of race, including clergy and religious.

November is Black Catholic History Month, when we celebrate our rich black Catholic heritage. We are mindful that the largest population of Black Catholics in the country is in the Diocese of Brooklyn, as is evidenced by the wide spectrum of apostolates that represent the various Catholics of African ancestry. As the new KPCLA New York area deputy, I invite all practicing Catholics to join our Claver family as we celebrate 112 years of service to the Church. We are in the process of revitalizing existing units and establishing new ones.

Our noble order heavily focuses on developing leadership in Catholic Young Adults through our Emerging Leaders Program. We offer Catholics real-world opportunities for this social justice-hungry generation.

I thank God for all of the spiritual mentorships that I have received through my involvement in my parish, through Kujenga, and my beginnings as a KPCLA junior daughter.

I have been able to “pay it forward” and accompany young people on pilgrimages, retreats, and conferences around the world. KPC/KPCLA aims to be a presence in our diocese Bto add to the vibrancy of our faith communities.

Join us as we continue making history in our Church here in Brooklyn and Queens.

Shaniqua X. Wilson is the Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary area deputy for the Greater NYC Region. For more information about KPC, or to join, visit kofpc.org/info.