Josephites have a dream
Image: Father Michael K. Okechukwu, S.S.J. blesses a couple at his 2011 ordination to the priesthood at Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Catholic Church in Washington, D.C.
From their beginning in 1871, Josephite priests and brothers ministered exclusively to African Americans. They are the only men’s religious community with this singular mission. An interracial, intercultural community, their members are black and white, American-born and African-born. There are 78 Josephites who serve in 41 parishes and four schools in several states. In addition, they run the Josephite Pastoral Center, an education, publishing, and research ministry in Washington, D.C. that specializes in resources for black Catholics.
Josephites—and their lay companions, parishioners, and students—have been part of the ongoing American struggle for civil rights and racial justice. Their efforts have ranged from activism for voting rights to a commitment to nurture African-American spirituality within a largely Caucasian church. They have helped nurture and develop gospel choirs and other Catholic liturgical forms with multicultural traditions.
“Today when black youth continue to be an endangered species, when we are still struggling to pass a Voting Rights Bill, and when almost 50 percent of black males drop out of high school and feed the prison pipeline, we Josephites are made keenly aware that our mission is not over,” writes the congregation’s general superior, Father William Norvel, S.S.J., in the Josephite quarterly Harvest. “Indeed our mission is more vital today than ever before.”
Read on to see images of the Josephites in action.
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