Diverse Church Can’t Offer Ethnic Diversity But ‘Open Door,’ Pastors Say

OWENSBORO, Ky. (OSV News) – When it comes to racial diversity – or the existence of racial divisions in the church – priests have a unique approach.

Father Emmanuel Udoh arrived in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to begin his new assignment at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church on June 13, after five years as pastor of Rosary Chapel, a black Catholic church in Paducah, Kentucky.

Sts. Peter and Paul, who also served in the US Army’s Fort Campbell, explained Father Udoh, “are a kind of family that is registered with the parish.”

The parish school covers pre-K through 8th grade, and this school year actually saw an increase of 151 students.

“Before I served at the Rosary Chapel, I was at the Blessed Mother Catholic Church (in Owensboro) – which is Caucasian Catholic – for two years,” said Father Udoh, a native of Nigeria, in the OSV News.

Well versed in the country’s Catholic history, Father Udoh explained that “Rosary Church was started as (an) African-American parish in 1947. At that time, Reverend Albert Thompson, the pastor of St. Francis De Sales (the mother church. down the street where the Black Catholics worshiped), they felt that the Black Catholics were not recognized and wanted their own place to worship.

“They were treated as second-class citizens and placed behind the three rows of the church,” said Father Udoh. He said, “St. Francis De Sales is still active today and the two churches are within walking distance of each other.

Regarding the continuing racial diversity in the church, the priest said, “I can speak from my personal experience. Although western Kentucky is very Caucasian, I don’t see a division, but an open door. ,” explaining as they walked a distance from each other “St. Stephen’s (Cathedral) is a mission church that cannot support itself. financially.”

But the Reformation Church with its “Afro-centric focus” shows the importance of having Catholic churches that reflect the spiritual value of Black Catholics – and Father Udoh gave his opinion to the role of the Black Catholic Church in the church.

“What this means to me is that we allow other black Catholics (perhaps from other countries) to approach God and worship, because it is from their – and my heritage. We take our our cultural heritage; our songs, our songs, and the way we worship our indigenous culture,” Father Udoh said.

“I was raised Catholic in Nigeria, and the only difference between celebrating Mass here and celebrating it there is that in my homeland, it is longer,” said Father Udoh.

He added that “people walk miles to get there (to church) and then walk miles to go home.”

Father John Thomas, pastor of St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro, OSV News has served in various churches since he was ordained a priest in 1993.

Asked about the national performance of the Ascension and St. Stephen Cathedral, said Father Thomas, who is white, “attending the Blessed Sacrament at our 10 a.m. Sunday Mass is about half and half (50% white, and 50% black and 50 %. other ethnic groups), with an uplifting liturgy, excellent hospitality and a little less.

In contrast, the church community of St. Stephen, said the rector, is white and “higher status.”

Working with Catholics from different cultures — including the latest from Myanmar — has been a humbling experience, he said. The priest said when he served in St. Peter and Paul in Hopkinsville, she didn’t speak Spanish when she arrived.

He was tutored by a Hispanic resident every two weeks for an hour each time.

“After I learned the language, I was able to give Masses in Spanish two more weeks on the weekend,” said Father Thomas.

“Regarding racial diversity (if any) in the church,” he said, “I think people want to go to church in their community, and I did. in the courts that are different, not the same.”

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Robert Alan Glover writes for OSV News from Kentucky.

A diverse church can’t offer racial diversity but an ‘open door,’ say pastors previously seen in OSV News.