Summary of today’s show: Each spring, the Church in the US takes up the Black and Indian Mission Collection. Fr. Wayne Paysse and Lorna DesRoses join Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell to discuss the work of the Black and Indian Mission Office, which was started under the inspiration of St. Katharine Drexel in the late 1800s, and how the grants issued by the office each year provide necessary funding of catechetical and evangelical work in dioceses, parishes, and communities and on reservations, throughout the United States, including in our own Archdiocese of Boston. The Archdiocese is among the most generous to the collection each year and its continued generosity is urgently needed.
Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell
Today’s guest(s): Lorna DesRoses and Fr. Wayne Paysse
Links from today’s show:
Today’s topics: Black and Indian Mission Office and Collection
1st segment: Scot welcomed Fr. Mark to the show and asked him how he celebrated Easter. Fr. Mark said he spent his time at St. Francis of Assisi in Braintree, where he lives. They also discussed Fr. Gerry Dorgan who is retiring from his parish. Fr. Mark lived in Fr. Dorgan’s parish for two years when he was first ordained and they have been friends ever since.
2nd segment: Scot welcomed Lorna and Fr. Paysse, who is a priest of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and is director of the Black and Indian Mission Office in Washington, DC. Scot asked for an overview of the office. Fr. Paysse said it consists of three organizations: The Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, Black and Indian Mission Collection, and Catholic Negro-American Mission Board, all of which were founded in the 1800s by the US bishops. The collection was the first nationwide collection. It gives the bishops of the US the funding to evangelize black communities and native American communities. It helps them buy catechetical materials and Bible; provides stipends for clergy; pays for sisters to work on reservations or in black communities.
Fr. Warne said every bishop in the US is encouraged to apply for grants every year and most do, but of course most of the native American ministry occurs in the West, SouthWest, and Northern parts of the US and funding for black Catholic communities occurs mainly in the South. Scot said when he heard of this collection, not knowing how far back it went, he wondered why these two missions went together. Fr. Wayne said St. Katharine Drexel was a key influence in this focus. She spoke to the bishops of this need and they were pleased to respond to Mother’s request. Prior to founding her community, she traveled by train across the country with her family and would often see the black and Indian communities and God spoke to her heart. It was part of God’s plan she would go onto be a Mother foundress, work with the bishops, and launch this ministry of evangelization.
Fr. Wayne said there is a connection to where he lives as director of the office. They live in a house that the Drexel family had owned and which is now their national office and the director’s residence. St. Katharine sold the house to the Missions for the amount of $1. She knew that for the ministry to take off, they needed a place that would be in a strategic location like DC.
Scot asked Lorna how this helps her ministry as director of the Office for Black Catholics in the Archdiocese. She said it helps with their youth leadership retreats, Black Catholic youth revival, and other prayer services and events. Scot asked if there are any outreaches to native Americans in our archdiocese. Lorna said we don’t now, but she’s hopeful that we will someday.
Scot said the annual collection is on April 28 and 29. Lorna said the grant request serves not just her office but also a number of individual parishes that serve mainly black Catholics.
Scot asked Fr. Wayne how much money is generally raised by this collection and how grant requests they get. Fr. Wayne said 150 or so dioceses applied and they raise anywhere between $6 and $14 million. Fr. Mark asked how the money is distributed. Fr. Wayne said the dioceses send the money to his office. He reviews the applications and prepares a report for their board, which consists of the bishops of New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. They then discuss the requests at their board meeting during the US bishops’ conference meeting in June and authorize grants. The grants are distributed in two lumps sums to dioceses and those are distributed at the discretion of the bishop according to the application.
Scot said we take our parishes for granted in the northeast, but that Fr. Wayne travels across the country and sees a different picture. Fr. Wayne said he travels about half of each month and remembers in one diocese in Texas, a black parish applied for funding for purchasing hymnals. To this day, he is moved by recalling his arrival at the parish and seeing the people standing in front of the church holding the hymnals. They made a gift to him of a performance of their choir. That particular parish had some struggles, but they were able to assist them in bringing joy to the community. He also remembers going to an Indian parish in Superior, Wisconsin, and when he arrived the children of the parish ran to him and pulled off to a shrine of Bl. Kateri. The children said they painted the statue and planted flowers for his visit and they started to pray in English and in their native language. To see the children and the communities filled with joy, knowing the money from his office brought that joy, is a blessing to him.
Fr. Mark asked about native Americans and their Catholic faith. Fr. Wayne said the most recent census shows about 5 million in the US total, and about 500,000- 800,000 are Catholic. There are perhaps even more who have embraced the faith. Fr. Wayne said they have been a blessing to the Church and wen red to continue to foster the faith among. About 60 percent have moved off the reservations and while we need to keep a presence there, we also need to reach out to them in our urban areas. This is one of Fr. Wayne’s goals that together as a team we need to continue the work of Christ among these communities.
Scot asked how many dioceses or parishes or missions have native American populations. Fr. Wayne said some dioceses have what we used to call national parishes for native Americans. In the Southwest, we have a number of native Americans. We have some on the East coast if not as many in the West. He said they’re planning a national study looking at native American communities and dioceses.
Scot said Archbishop Chaput and Cardinal Dolan are two of the most effective evangelists in our Church and Archbishop Chaput is native American himself. Scot said it’s sobering to realize that if the faith wasn’t passed on to his ancestors, we wouldn’t have him in our Church today. Fr. Wayne said his office was elated when Archbishop Chaput was appointed. He serves on the board by virtue of his office in Philadelphia.
Fr. Wayne thanked the people of the Archdiocese of Boston for their support over the years and asked for continued prayers and monetary sacrifices. He said the Archdiocese is in the top 10 highest monies given across the nation, over $300,000. Without those funds, they wouldn’t be able to share with mission outreach to other parts of the country. Some dioceses are so poor that the funding from places like Boston is very important.
Lorna said the Office for Black Catholics falls under the Office for Cultural Diversity. She said there is a large black Catholic community in the Archdiocese, including a Cape Verdean community that is the largest outside of Cape Verde, the third-largest Haitian community in the US, and largest Ugandan community in the US. They provide priests who celebrate Mass in Portuguese Creole and Haitian Creole, help them with religious education, and support what are mainly young communities. They pay to train youth ministers, to bring priests from Cape Verde and other expenses. They support 18 parishes that evangelize the black Catholic community. They work with many immigrant groups, but also a very large African American community.
Fr. Mark related the impact of seeing a black priests on an inmate on a recent visit to a prison. Lorna said they hope to see an increase in vocations among these communities.
Scot asked Fr. Wayne to situate this fund in the broader context of our call to be missionary. Fr. Wayne said by virtue of our baptism we are called to be missionaries. He recalled telling a group of young people how important it is for them to love God each day, to claim their baptismal gift by the grace of the Holy Spirit. He told them that Jesus was the first missionary sent from heaven and then he called the apostles to send them out and the Church has been sending us out as missionaries as well, whether in our homes or parishes or dioceses. We start in our own communities. You don’t have to cross the ocean to be a missionary. Pope Benedict XVI reminded us not long ago that mission is not part of the Church, but that the Church is mission.
Scot said Cardinal Sean often says we as a Catholic community do a great job caring for the corporal or bodily needs of others, but the spiritual needs as much attention. This collection does help with those spiritual needs. He said the most holy duty of a bishop is to send a priest to serve the people. This fund enables them to send a priest or sister or catechist to people who could not pay for it themselves. Lorna said for many communities it is a great joy to have a priest to celebrate the Mass for them in their language and to serve them.
Scot said he often hears of the of the mission diocese of Gallup, New Mexico. He asked how it is different from Boston. Fr. Wayne said it is a vast territory and very beautiful. In the diocese they have St. Michael’s Indian Mission, staffed by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, and the funding from the office enables them to continue their work in the elementary and high schools. Bishop James Wall has really embraced the native Americans and shared his dreams for the community with Fr. Wayne.
Lorna thanked everyone listening for their generosity to this collection each year. Without it, there wouldn’t be as many parishes able to reach out to these communities. Historically speaking, we need to continue to reach out to these communities as we ever did when the office was founded. She said there are 3 million black Catholics in the USand through education they have brought many people in to the Church. She said she and Fr. Wayne have visited many parishes in the past few days and the pastors were uniformly grateful for the grants they received because it helps them reach out to the community. It helps them with the good work they do in their neighborhoods.
3rd segment: Now as we do each week at this time, we will consider the readings for this Sunday’s Gospel and reflect upon them.
The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
With great power the apostles bore witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and great favor was accorded them all.
There was no needy person among them,
for those who owned property or houses would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale,
and put them at the feet of the apostles,
and they were distributed to each according to need.
- Gospel of the Second Sunday of Easter, April 15, 2012 (John 20:19-31)
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
Scot said these readings come within the context of Divine Mercy Sunday. He said one of the main themes of Divine Mercy is that we have peace. One way to have peace is turning to God for his mercy. Fr. Wayne said as we look at the readings in light of Divine Mercy, the opening sentence of the reading from Acts, where the community is of one heart and mind, speaks of peace and unity. We too must be of one heart and mind. Jesus wants us to have peace and be merciful as he is merciful to us.
Lorna said what stays with her is Christ saying Peace be with you three times. Also that Jesus came through the door that was locked out of fear and told them not to be afraid, but to go out to the place they feared. Also, Thomas wasn’t there, but Jesus came again so Thomas could experience and see him.
Scot said we’ve all had our Thomas moments when we’ve tried to put conditions on our relationship with God. Fr. Mark said Thomas is a complex person. He’s the doubter, but he’s also the only time in the Gospel that Jesus is referred to as God. Earlier in the Gospel, Thomas is the one who calls the apostles to continue on the way to Bethany.
Scot said the apostles are locked in the room because they’re in fear, but through the encounter with Jesus, they are given the Holy Spirit and sent out. Fr. Wayne said that message is for each one of us. We have to be honest with ourselves that from time to time we are fearful of many things, but when we are in the presence f Christ, Jesus brings his peace to strengthen and focus us to move forward as his disciple.
Scot said Jesus says clearly that the apostles will forgive sins in his name. It shows how much love God has for us. Lorna said through the sacraments we have the opportunity to return to God for forgiveness. Confession such an important way to encounter God. Fr. Mark points out that in the first reading we see the generosity of the early Christians who don’t count their possessions as their own, and we see that fits with today’s topic of giving of what we have to support those who are in need.
Fr. Wayne said this year Pope Benedict will canonize Blessed Kateri, the Mohawk maiden, in October. the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions will lead the official pilgrimage to Rome. The month prior to that, they will lead a pilgrimage to Chicago to promote the cause of Fr. Augustus Tolton, the first US black priest to have a cause for canonization opened.