When the Brother Booker Ashe Lay Ministry Program class of 2016 celebrated its graduation at All Saints Catholic Church June 5, it did so without someone who had been a part of the program since its inception in 2007.

An empty seat keeps alive the memory of Ted Goins during the Brother Booker Ashe Lay Leadership graduation prayer service on Sunday, June 5 at All Saints Church, Milwaukee. Goins died unexpectedly two weeks before he was to graduate from the program. (Submitted photo courtesy the Goins family)

An empty seat keeps alive the memory of Ted Goins during the Brother Booker Ashe Lay Leadership graduation prayer service on Sunday, June 5 at All Saints Church, Milwaukee. Goins died unexpectedly two weeks before he was to graduate from the program. (Submitted photo courtesy the Goins family)

Ted Goins died May 24 at age 67 – two weeks before he would have gotten the chance to come forward and receive his certificate of completion from the program’s coordinator and his longtime friend, Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, Minnesota Callista Robinson.

But Goins’ presence was still felt at the graduation-prayer service, where his daughter Kimberly accepted his certificate and a congratulatory candle and Bible from Sr. Callista in his stead.

“I felt honored to do that and to stand in for him, because I knew how important it was for him,” said Kimberly Goins.

Goins said her father was a man who loved to learn – especially about his faith. It was that desire for more religious education that compelled him to enroll in the Brother Booker Ashe Lay Ministry Program when Sr. Callista and several other African-American religious and clergy of Wisconsin formed the curriculum that focuses on black Catholic spirituality and history.

At the time, Goins was still working as a district manager for Chrysler — his career for more than 35 years. But after his retirement around eight years ago, his daughter said he was able to devote himself more fully to his studies and to more involvement in church life.

He was a trustee at St. Martin de Porres Parish, where he and wife Joyce were longtime members; he was also a lector and extraordinary minister of holy Communion, and had previously served on the parish council.

His faith was important to him, said Kimberly, because he felt it was that very faith which was responsible for the life he had. He was born in Arkansas but grew up in Milwaukee’s inner city, and St. Benedict the Moor Franciscan Ministry played a big part in his upbringing.

“I think because he grew up in the central city, very poor in the projects, and St. Ben’s helped him get out of that life,” said Goins.


Left to right: Ted, daughter Kimberly, and mother Joyce. (submitted photo)

Left to right: Ted, daughter Kimberly, and mother Joyce. (submitted photo)

Goins was an active member of the Knights of Peter Claver, the oldest and largest predominantly African-American lay Catholic organization in the country, and he was especially keen on supporting the Knights’ scholarship programs, said Kimberly.

“My father was very, very focused on his faith and making sure his children received education within the Catholic Church,” she said, adding that she – along with her older brother Ted Jr. and younger sister Joyce – have all attended Catholic institutions throughout their education.

“There was never any question – my mother is a Protestant, but they knew from day one that his children were going to be raised Catholic and have a Catholic education, and we all did,” Kimberly said.

It was the deepening of that education that made him especially passionate about the Brother Booker Ashe Lay Ministry Program, she said.

The program, funded by grants from the U.S. bishops’ Black and Indian Mission Office and sponsored by the archdiocesan Black Catholic Ministry Commission, is geared toward black Catholics and those who minister in black Catholic communities, said Sr. Callista.

Named for Milwaukee Capuchin Br. Booker Ashe, who founded the House of Peace in 1968, it continues in the same ministry as the Lay Leadership Program for Black Catholics, later known as the Lincoln and Julia Valle Lay Leadership Program, which was discontinued in 2003 because of a lack of instructors.

The class of 2016 is the Brother Booker Ashe Lay Leadership Program’s second graduating class. Participants receive instruction from theologians and scholars on the same topics that would be offered in any other lay ministry certification program – scriptural studies, evangelization, sacraments, canon law and moral theology – but with a particular focus on the black Catholic experience. Instructors have included Fr. Bryan Massingale, Daniel Scholz, Cynthia Blaze, Capuchin Fr. John Celichowski and Capuchin Br. Bob Smith.

Shawnee Daniels-Sykes, a moral theologian who teaches at Mount Mary University, serves as an instructor for the program. She said the value of such a specialized lay ministry curriculum cannot be easily underestimated.

“It’s a program that is specifically geared toward those who are of African descent and those who have an interest in ministry in the African-American community,” she said. “We have an array of classes in canon law and black Catholic history, catechesis … my class takes on an African-American perspective in terms of looking at the social and ethical issues, the biological issues, issues around moral theology … with a focus on the African- American experience.”

Daniels-Sykes, also a parishioner at St. Martin de Porres, described Goins as a “very, very, very attentive student.”

“Ted really was a very stellar leader in the black Catholic community, and he was really, really concerned about understanding what that meant in terms of his life, spirituality, and how he related to other people, and very sensitive about the plight of African- American Catholics,” she said.

The Brother Booker Ashe Lay Ministry Program gave his understanding of the Catholic faith a new depth, said Kimberly. He particularly enjoyed Fr. Celichowski’s instruction on canon law.

“His eyes were really opened to all sides of the faith, things that he never really was privy to before, even though he had been to Catholic school,” she said.

Other members of the graduating class are Dara Atandare, Acklen Banks, Agatha Coleman, Dana Kleckly and Jackie Martin-Stone. Their areas of expertise range from education to working with the homeless, said Sr. Callista.

Goins’ sudden death, of undetermined natural causes, was a big shock to his fellow students, she said. The funeral was held May 31, just a few days before graduation.

But his memory still burns in the hearts of those who knew him, a man described by his daughter as a “gentle giant” who was tireless in his dedication to fatherhood and family life, who was a devoted Packer fan, a great cook and a prized barbecue chef for parish fundraisers.

“He was a tall man and a proud man, and sometimes he looked very stern – but he was so sensitive, he was sweet,” said Kimberly. “He always had my back – and not just mine, as it turned out – but my cousins and my friends would look to my father for support, and he was always there to lend a hand. He was the glue in our family, the strength…. He was nothing but love – just love.”