In honor of Black History Month, here are some examples of extraordinary Catholics who are black and who advanced our faith and are models for discipleship today. In honor of Black History Month, here are some examples of extraordinary Catholics who are black and who advanced our faith and are models for discipleship today.
St. Martin de Porres
Born in Peru in 1579 to a Spanish nobleman and a former black slave, St. Martin de Porres became a Dominican brother. He was known for his charity with the poor and founding an orphanage and hospital. Ministering in Africa, especially to those in slavery, St. Martin de Porres is a patron saint of the poor. His feast day is Nov. 3.
Mary Lou Williams
Born in 1910 in Atlanta, Williams is known as one of America’s premiere jazz musicians. She was also a pianist and composed music, writing and recording hundreds of songs. After converting to Catholicism in 1956, she composed Mass settings, one of them to honor St. Martin de Porres.
Mother Mary Lange, OSP
Born in Cuba in 1784, Mother Mary Lange is known for establishing the Oblates Sisters of Providence, located in Baltimore. This order allowed for African American women to enter religious life. The church now recognizes her as a “Servant of God.”
Mother Henriette Delille, SSF
Born in New Orleans in 1812, Mother Henriette Delille founded the Sisters of the Holy Family, based in New Orleans. The order assisted those who were sick and dying. The church now recognizes her as a “Venerable,” as her cause for sainthood continues.
Father Augustine Tolton
Quincy’s Father Augustine Tolton was born into slavery in Missouri in 1854. His family made a daring escape across the Mississippi River and into Illinois, a free state at the time. Settling in Quincy, he studied for the priesthood in Rome. Upon ordination, Father Tolton was sent back to Quincy in 1886, becoming the nation’s first black priest. Today, he is buried in Quincy at St. Peter’s Cemetery. Last year, Pope Francis declared him “Venerable.” The Vatican is currently reviewing miracles associated with his intercession.