Archdiocese of New Orleans recalls its black saints
The annual Black Saints Celebration, coordinated by the Office of Black Catholic Ministries, takes place in November to coincide with Black Catholic History Month. This year’s event is Nov. 14 at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in New Orleans.
The event began in 1984 to “evangelize, highlight, enhance and celebrate the contributions of the Black Catholic community as it shares its gifts in the Church and society.”
Then-Father Ferd Cheri, now auxiliary bishop of New Orleans, was on the inaugural committee that rallied marching bands to participate in an opening parade, and had individuals carry banners and images of black saints to showcase Black Catholic identity.
The committee included a prayer service in the annual festivities to pay homage to the gifts and sacrifices of Black Catholic ancestors and to challenge the church to make way for future generations.
Bishop Cheri said the first celebration in 1984 was in Congo Square – a place where slaves often gathered on their “free” day to socialize and sing. The 1984 celebration, which was led by the St. Augustine High School Marching 100, processed to nearby St. Augustine Church.
“This is a wonderful opportunity that we can celebrate who we are, not just for ourselves as Black Catholics but for the whole Catholic Church,” Bishop Cheri said. “It serves a dual purpose.”
Bishop Cheri said the 1984 celebration was special to him because it united – for the first time – choirs from several Black Catholic churches to form the Archdiocesan Mass Gospel Choir, which is still performing 31 years later. Richard Cheri, Bishop Cheri’s brother, is the choir’s director.
Last year, the Office of Black Catholic Ministries added the “Mrs. Sophie Aramburo Servant Leader Awards” to honor individuals – nominated by their church parish, high school or university – who have been instrumental in sharing and spreading the Black Catholic heritage in their parish and the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Criteria include being an active member of a church, parish or school; being a witness of God’s love and call to serve with humility and thanksgiving for the gifts given by God; and showing exceptional leadership, just like the award’s namesake, a former associate director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries.
Those interested in participating in this year’s Black Saints celebration Nov. 14 are asked to gather at 10 a.m. at St. Roch/Harold Sampson Jr. Park, 1800 St. Roch Park Ave., New Orleans. A neighborhood parade will begin at 11 a.m., ending at Our Lady Star of the
Sea Catholic Church, 1835 St. Roch Ave., where a prayer service will begin at noon. Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri will be the guest preacher. A reception follows. Parking is available around the church.