The 33rd annual Black Excellence Awards recognized ground-breaking African Americans from around the Milwaukee area that are serving communities, inspiring peers and transforming lives.
Though a secular event and not specifically religious in nature, it is all the more significant that Black Catholic women were included in the awards, said Fr. Michael Bertram, OFM, Cap. As the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Fr. Bertram is excited that two women from his parish received awards on Friday, Feb. 23, at the Italian Conference Center.
The theme this year was “Mastering the Tools of Excellence,” and St. Francis of Assisi members Lennie Mosley and Sr. Patricia Rogers, OP, exemplify excellence. Another worthy recipient of the award was Bea Frazier, a member of All Saints Parish.
“Bea Frazier is an outstanding woman and is instrumental in so many ministries there,” Fr. Bertram said. “She received an award for Service to Church.”
Mosley said she was humbled to receive the award for volunteerism and joked that she would like to find the person who gave out her name and give them a good spanking.
“I was so surprised to receive the award, but you know, when you go about doing God’s work and doing what you should be doing for people, you don’t need to boast about it,” she said, adding, “But I guess someone was watching.”
Some of Mosley’s volunteer activities include serving on the culinary committee, the parish council finance committee and assisting the elderly in her parish. She also runs the parish blood drive.
“Lennie presently is the president of the Halyard Park Association here in the neighborhood of St. Francis Parish,” said Fr. Bertram. “It is just one of her many involvements in the community. In addition to that, Lennie is a key organizer of the St. Francis of Assisi Parish gospel music workshop, the parish’s annual Golf outing fundraiser and numerous other activities in St. Francis of Assisi Parish.”
“There is just so much out there to do,” she said. “I also pick up bread at Pick ’n Save and deliver them to different shelters in town. A couple of years ago, I was at Pick ’n Save and saw baskets full of bread near the door. I learned they were throwing them out and I begged them not to because there are so many people who really need the bread and bakery items. Everyone is so happy to receive the baked goods.”
Mosley credits her parents for teaching her to give back to others. As one of 11 children growing up on a 152-acre farm in rural Mississippi, she said she never wanted for anything.
“My father took whatever produce that didn’t sell and gave it to our neighbors and my mom was the same way. She was a seamstress and didn’t get paid,” she said, laughing. “They taught us to do good for others and it gives me great joy to do God’s will.”
Mosley’s husband of nearly 51 years was born and raised in Milwaukee, attended St. Benedict the Moor Catholic School through 12th grade, and went to Marquette University for college. He often accompanies her on bread runs to local shelters.
“He and a lot of other Black people in Milwaukee over 50 are locked in their faith and are trying to help bring up kids in the faith,” she said. “The faith among Black Catholics in Milwaukee is growing and Fr. Mike Bertram has been instrumental in pulling people back into the church. When you go to Mass with Fr. Mike, you want to go evangelizing and tell people about it; people drive in from all over the place and Mass now brings in 150 to 175 more people every Sunday.”
Fr. Bertram was pleased to see that Sr. Pat Rogers received this year’s Social Service Award.
“She is a member of the Sisters of St. Dominic headquartered in Sinsinawa, and is the executive director of the Dominic Center for Women, situated on 24th and Locust,” he said. “The Dominican Center addresses issues of adult education, housing and community development in the Amani neighborhood where the Center is situated.”
The Dominican Center supports residents in their efforts to bring about change in the Amani neighborhood and connects them to resources that help them reach their goals. Some of their efforts include adult education and helping adults earn their GED and HSED diplomas, housing issues and building neighborhood capacity. For the past seven years, Sr. Rogers has served the Dominican Center.
“The Dominican Center helped 70 families buy and restore 70 city-owned houses, the door then opened for families, including men,” she said. “We are proud that we have been able to assist residents in achieving their goals: GED, homeownership and resident leadership. We eliminated health hazards in homes and replaced roofs.”
More than their own efforts, Sr. Rogers says the center workers are proud of the residents’ many accomplishments.
“They re-opened Moody Park, closed one problem corner store, demanded a period of review of operations for a second corner store, showed up for monthly policy community meetings and for planning and participating in Aldermanic neighborhood walks,” she said.
The most joyful aspect of Sr. Rogers’ work is when they can connect residents to needed resources and they are able to take control of their situation.
“The award means my staff appreciates and values the work of the Dominican Center and my leadership,” she said. “One can demand respect, but appreciation is a gift freely given.”