No Picture
News Briefs

Black Catholic worship is unique — but majority-Black parishes are rare, survey says

March 16, 2022 Catholic News Agency 1
African American Heritage Hymnal in a pew at Cure d’Ars Catholic Church in Denver. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Mar 16, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

A new survey of Black Catholics in the United States sheds light on what makes Black expressions of Catholicism unique, but also highlights the fact that Black Catholics remain a minority in the country as a whole, and in most parishes.  

The survey found that Black Catholics are significantly less likely than other Catholics — and also less likely than Black Protestants — to attend a church where most of the other parishioners are of the same race or ethnicity they are. 

About 6% of the Black population in the U.S. — around 3 million total people — is Catholic, compared with some 66% who are Protestant. Black Catholic communities in the U.S. include not only African-Americans, but also African and Caribbean immigrants. They make up about 4% of all Catholic adults. 

Black Catholic communities have been present in the United States for centuries, with large African-American Catholic populations in cities including Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, and numerous cities throughout the South. Overall, 45% of Black Catholics in the U.S. live in the South, while 29% live in the Northeast, 15% live in the West, and 11% live in the Midwest. 

Pew’s survey suggests that only a quarter of Black Catholics who attend Mass at least a few times a year report that they typically go to a Mass where most other attendees are Black, and about 17% of Mass-going Black Catholics say they worship at a “Black church.”

That compares with 80% of White Catholics who worship where most attendees are White, and 67% of Hispanic Catholics who worship where most attendees are Hispanic, Pew reported. And in contrast, more than two thirds of Black Protestants say they attend a predominantly Black church. 

Pew’s survey drew on a sample of nearly 9,000 Black Americans and was conducted between Nov. 19, 2019-June 3, 2020. 

According to the survey, 59% of Black Catholics say they pray at least once a day, while roughly half say that religion is very important in their lives. Black Catholics are somewhat more likely than White and Hispanic Catholics to say they pray every day, and somewhat more likely than White Catholics to say religion is very important to them. Black Catholics also are more likely than other Catholics to say they rely “a lot” on prayer for guidance in major life decisions. 

Worship at predominantly Black Catholic parishes is different from that of predominantly White parishes. For one thing, Black Catholics are much more likely to report that other attendees often or sometimes call out “amen” or other expressions of praise during Mass. 

Black Catholic Masses are typically longer than those attended by White Catholics; more than a third of Black Catholics say their Masses are longer than 90 minutes. But Black Catholic Masses are still shorter on average than most Black Protestant worship services. 

A priest and deacon process up the aisle during a Mass at Cure d'Ars Catholic Church, a predominantly African-American parish in Denver, on Sept. 1, 2021. Jonah McKeown/CNA
A priest and deacon process up the aisle during a Mass at Cure d’Ars Catholic Church, a predominantly African-American parish in Denver, on Sept. 1, 2021. Jonah McKeown/CNA

About a quarter of Black Catholics say they have experienced jumping, shouting, and dancing spontaneously during Mass, or charismatic forms of worship such as speaking in tongues. Still, Black Catholics are less likely to report that these more charismatic forms of worship are present at their churches than are Hispanic Catholics, or Black Protestants. 

Black Catholics also tend to travel farther to get to Mass than their White or Hispanic counterparts, with 41% saying they have to travel more than 15 minutes to get to Mass. 

In terms of preaching at Mass, Black Catholics are more likely to report hearing a homily about racism, and slightly less likely to hear a homily about abortion, than are White Catholics. 

A majority of Black Catholics — 77% — say opposition to racism is essential to what being Christian means to them. This contrasts with only 26% of Black Catholics who say that attending church regularly is essential to their faith, 22% who say opposing abortion is essential, and just 16% who say avoiding sex before marriage is essential to their religious identity. In addition, the survey suggests that most Black Catholics (71%) believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Compared to White or Hispanic Catholics, more Black Catholics are converts to the faith. Roughly half of Black adults who were raised Catholic still identify as Catholic (54%), compared with 61% of White adults and 68% of Hispanic adults who were raised as Catholics and still identify with the faith, Pew reports.

Compared to White or Hispanic Catholics, Black Catholics differ in their expectations of what their parish should be like, and what the congregation should do. Black Catholics are more likely than White or Hispanic Catholics to say they think it is essential that churches offer a sense of “racial affirmation or pride,” as well as to say it is essential that churches assist people who need help with bills, housing, or food.


No Picture
News Briefs

Catholic schools have ‘mighty role’ for Black Catholic leaders, Louisville archbishop says

August 25, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Armonté Snodgrass, freshman at Louisville’s Saint Xavier High School, who received the 2021 Rodriq McCravy Scholarship award at the 34th annual African American Catholic Leadership Awards banquet / Saint Xavier High School

Denver Newsroom, Aug 25, 2021 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

The Louisville archdiocese has made steady progress in enrolling more African-Americans in Catholic schools, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville has praised these schools’ service in forming Black Catholic leaders.

“What is clear is that Catholic education will continue to have a mighty role in calling forth and developing strong leaders in the African American Catholic community as we look to the future,” Kurtz said in his Aug. 24 column for the archdiocese newspaper The Record.

“While more outreach is necessary to attract and assist youth from the African American Catholic community to benefit from a Catholic education, some steady progress is occurring,” the archbishop said.

Local Catholic school enrollments in the 2020-2021 school year indicated there now were 689 African-American students, a 50% increase from six years ago. The archbishop said that Catholic schools still want to attract more Black students, but these numbers were nonetheless cause for encouragement.

The archbishop credited the Catholic Education Foundation for helping increase tuition assistance for students. Last year 3,350 students received assistance, compared to under 1,500 seven years ago. State legislation allowing for education opportunity grants “bodes well for the future,” Kurtz said.

His comments came in a reflection on the 34th annual African American Catholic Leadership Awards Banquet, which drew nearly 400 people to the Galt House in Louisville on Aug. 14.

Armonté Dominique Snodgrass, a freshman at St. Xavier High School, was one of five high school students to receive a Rodriq McCravy Scholarship Award. The honor is given to Black Catholic students who show leadership in their churches, schools and communities. The award’s namesake graduated from Louisville’s Trinity High School in 1986.

Snodgrass told the banquet that he was “was one of the lucky ones able to attend Catholic schools from a young age until now.”

“Catholic schools are not just preparing me for college, they’ve prepared and are preparing me for life,” said Snodgrass, a parishioner at St. Martin de Porres Church.

Seven other students received McCravy college scholarship awards, according to The Record.

Dr. Laura Dills, president of Presentation Academy, told the banquet that 35% of her school’s students are Black, Asian, Latina or multi-racial.

“We welcome students from all zip codes,” she said, adding that Presentation alumni consistently include “doctors, lawyers, playwrights, principals and teachers.”

The banquet’s highest honors for leadership, the Acacia Awards, went to several couples and individuals, including Deacon John Churchill and Genevieve Churchill, who recently celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary.

At the banquet, the archbishop had bought a portrait of Venerable Augustus Tolton. In his column, Kurtz praised Tolton’s life, saying “we all need great examples of leadership for young men and women called each year to follow Christ.”

In 1889 Tolton became the first widely recognized African American to be ordained a Catholic priest. He was born into slavery in Missouri in 1854. With his family, he escaped slavery during the Civil War by crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois. He went to Catholic school and was baptized in Quincy, Ill.

No American seminary would accept Tolton because of his race, so he studied for the priesthood in Rome. After he was ordained he returned to Quincy for three years before moving to Chicago, where he died at the age of 43.

“In the less than a dozen years in which he served as a priest, Father Tolton showed great leadership, including the development and construction of St. Monica Church in Chicago just four years before his death,” Kurtz said. Tolton “received gifts and talents from God and put them at the service of Christ and His people.”

“What an outstanding example of an African American Catholic for us all to emulate,” said the archbishop.

For Kurtz, the recent banquet helped advance the message that “we are a family.”

“In the midst of all of the challenges that every family endures, we have had our share, including the challenges of COVID-19,” he said.

“As a family of faith, we seek to treat each other with great dignity, care and civility,” he said. “In the past, when I have spoken of issues related to the respect for all human life (of which our strong opposition to racism is a key part), I have spoken of the four virtues or the four “c’s” so necessary: courage, compassion, civility and calm.”

“I pray that we will never cease our efforts together to exhibit these qualities,” he said.