Seminary hosts workshop on African-American causes for sainthood

Canon A. Gerard Jordan, O. Praem, speaks July 14 at Sacred Heart Major Seminary about the lives and faith legacies of six African-American men and women whose canonization causes have been opened by the Church. Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic

Detroit — There are more than 10,000 souls venerated as saints in the Roman Catholic Church.

And not a single one of them is African-American.

If saints are meant to serve as role models for the faithful, then it’s important for African-American Catholics to promote the cause of holy men and women who made great contributions to the black Church in the United States, said Canon A. Gerard Jordan, O. Praem.

Canon Jordan led a July 14 conference at Sacred Heart Major Seminary on African-American candidates for sainthood, detailing the lives of six holy men and women whose piety are worthy of admiration.

Canon Jordan, who is actively raising money for the canonization cause of Fr. Augustus Tolton, the first recognized African-American priest, said it’s incumbent on black Catholics to tell the stories of African-American candidates for sainthood and prop them up as role models for all the faithful.

“Their visions were all different on how to suffer, how to serve, but the mission was the mission we have today: bringing the life of Jesus Christ to the world,” Canon Jordan said.

Canon Jordan opened his presentation with the life of Ven. Pierre Toussaint (1766-1853), a Haitian-born slave who moved to New York City and became a successful hairdresser who bought freedom for the women considered to be his wife and niece, but remained a slave to take care of his master’s destitute wife.

“Pierre Toussaint wanted to help the poor children of New York City, so he opened up the first Catholic orphanage in the city, which became the first school for black children in the country,” Canon Jordan said.

Ven. Toussaint stayed in the city during a cholera epidemic to care for the poor, establishing what came to be known as Catholic Charities. Today, his remains are in the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

“In 1968, his cause for sainthood was opened and (in 1996) he was made venerable, proving heaven and earth made a connection,” Canon Jordan said. “But we believe him to be a saint already. It’s relevant that this man be recognized. This man’s picture needs to be at every Catholic Charities event. We need to give our young people a face to recognize.”

Canon Jordan went on to recognize the contributions of Ven. Mother Henriette DeLille, Servant of God Fr. Augustus Tolton, Servant of God Sr. Thea Bowman, FSPA, and Servant of God Julia Greeley, OFS.

Canon Jordan also detailed the life of Servant of God Mother Mary Lange, foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, a community that educated black girls, ran an orphanage, and was a place for widows, serving as an example for the scores of women religious who made great contributions to the Catholic Church in the United States.

“It was consecrated women who worked for pennies on the dollar, who kept it going,” Canon Jordan said. “It was they who kept the schools going, the hospitals going.”

Canon Jordan said all the faithful can learn from these heroes, who served those God gave them.

“They need to be held up as examples of what the Lord asks of us,” Canon Jordan said. “We each have gifts, but with a common purpose: to continue the mission of Jesus Christ.”