Black Catholics are the past and future of the U.S. church

When you think about the history of American Catholicism, images of Irish, Italian, German and Polish immigrant parishes probably come to mind. Think about the future of the U.S. church, and you’ve probably been told it’s Latino. But the story of the church, in the United States—past, present and future—is the story of black Catholics.

On this week’s show we talk with Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning journalist and columnist at Roll Call, who recently wrote about the African-American Catholic experience for America. We ask her how the church can address the sin of racism, about the gifts black Catholics bring to the church and what she thinks about Pope Francis five years in.

The beautiful legacy of black Catholicism in the United States

This week’s guest is Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning journalist who is currently a columnist for Roll Call. Her latest article for America is “Catholics of color are keeping the U.S. Catholic Church alive.”

Ms. Curtis says “being [a] black Catholic was very natural, it was just my life.” She grew up in Maryland, and the political turmoil of the school desegregation movement, the trial of the Berrigan brothers, and the involvement of nuns in the Civil Rights movement informed her experience of Catholicism. She said article is about “keeping the faith, and seeing the Catholic church change through ways of inclusion and exclusion.”

Catholics of color are keeping the U.S. Catholic Church alive

I was raised steeped in Catholicism—from my name, Mary Cecelia, to my education. I grew up in Maryland in the 1960s and ’70s. I attended the now-shuttered St. Pius V Catholic School, where I was taught by teachers from the Oblate Sisters of Providence, an order founded in 1829 to educate and care for African-American children. I wore my faith proudly, even when the bonds of it were strained. When my classmates and I got the side-eye from the white Catholic school kids at citywide field day games held in Patterson Park, or when some members of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul at the predominantly white Seton High attributed my high test scores to divine intervention rather than intellect, I remained proud of both my heritage and my faith.

American Catholics — in public and in transition

Ever notice how restaurants feature all manner of fish specials during Lent, even at fast-food spots known for burgers and chicken? It’s not just for health reasons. The Lenten season focuses curiosity and scrutiny on a faith that fascinates, even if you know it only from headlines — from sex-abuse scandals to a pope with rock-star status. The influence of one faith that claims 75 million followers in America seems most evident in a solemn season that began this week with Ash Wednesday, when those who span the spectrum of Roman Catholic devotion return to tradition to spend the day wearing a visible manifestation of religious belief.

But that nod to tradition belies a group of believers in transition. A Pew research study released Thursday shows that like many other institutions, questions about the church’s direction run deep. (The survey of 1,821 adults included 351 Catholics.) Would it be any other way in an American society that is changing?

Authentically black and Catholic – with something to say about Pope Francis

It was a funny though welcome text message, congratulating me on “my” new pope. From 3,000 miles away, my friend knows how much my Catholic faith means to me and wanted to share the good news. Though she was raised Baptist and doesn’t really practice any religion now, she understood. What did I think of Pope Francis? Wait and see, I told her. The church is wading through earthly and spiritual challenges, and this conservative pope likely won’t rock the theological boat. But I said I was impressed by his humility, his commitment to social justice and his Jesuit pedigree.

It felt good to be a part of the discussion during such an important transition, in a church that has not always been so welcoming to black Catholics.