Youth dressed as six U.S. Black Catholics being considered for sainthood will teach others about these holy men and women at a special event Nov. 17.
“I want people in the community — Catholic, non-Catholic, whomever — to know about these people and what they’ve accomplished and that they are on the road to sainthood,” said Karen Bandy Hill, a St. Francis of Assisi parishioner who is a member of the Black Catholic Ministry Commission of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee that organized the event.
“Celebrating Black Catholics on the Road to Sainthood,” will highlight the Venerable Fr. Augustus Tolton, Servant of God Sr. Thea Bowman, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, Venerable Mother Henriette Delille, Servant of God Julia Greeley and Venerable Mother Mary Lange.
The celebration of these men and women —known as the “Saintly Six” — during Black Catholic History Month will be held 6-8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, 1937 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave., Milwaukee.
The young actors, who will range in age from 11 to 15, are members of All Saints, Blessed Savior, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Martin de Porres parishes. Audience members will receive “passports” to encourage them to visit with each actor to find out more after the formal presentations.
“It’s just truly an honor for these young people to have the opportunity to tell the story of these African Americans on the road to sainthood,” said St. Francis of Assisi parishioner Sharveta Parker-Evans of Milwaukee.
Parker-Evans’ daughter, Lileth Gale, 11, is looking forward to representing Sr. Bowman at the event.
“Acting is something I really enjoy, and this is a good opportunity to learn about somebody new,” Lileth said.
Sr. Bowman just passed away in 1990, and Parker-Evans said her family wears the same types of “Afro-centric gear,” such as head wraps, that Bowman wore, “so it wasn’t very challenging to find items to fit the role.”
Other event activities will include a welcome from Fr. Mike Bertram, O.F.M. Cap., pastor of St. Francis of Assisi; a presentation on highlights of the National Black Catholic Congress last summer by Simone Biagui; singing led by a combined choir of the four parishes; and closing comments by Mary Word, chair of the Black Catholic Ministry Commission. A small supper and social time will follow.
Attendees are asked to register online by Nov. 16 so organizers know about how many people to expect: https://archmil.regfox.com/black-catholic-history-month-2023.
The process to sainthood has four phases. The person being considered for sainthood is given a title once they meet the criteria in each phase: servant of God, venerable, blessed and saint. The process can stretch over many decades and involves a lot of documentation, investigation and consideration by various commissions and officials. Two authenticated miracles are required for sainthood.
Hill said she is personally eager for more people to learn about the six Black Americans she calls “heroes of the faith.”
“These six people on their way to sainthood — they are a witness for our times in holiness and the strength they showed in turbulent times,” Hill said. “I think it will be memorable.”