When Black Catholics speak up, we should listen

It’s difficult for me to think of a time when I did not feel welcome in the Catholic Church. I was raised Catholic and have attended Mass every Sunday my whole life, and I have always felt a sense of belonging when I step into a Church. I also happen to be white, of European descent.

I’ll never forget the day that one of my African American friends made a joke about how there are no Black Catholics. She said this very casually. Her tone of voice did not indicate that this comment was meant to be provocative. But it provoked something inside of me. I don’t think I said anything in the moment, but when I thought back to her comment later on, my first reaction was to defend the Church, listing every Black Catholic I knew in my head. I came up with a list of about five people. But what I realized much later is that it doesn’t matter how many Black Catholics I, as a White Catholic can name. If my Black friend does not feel welcome in the Catholic Church, that means there is a problem and we must address it.

The problem is not with my friend’s perception, as I wanted to believe at first. I wanted to point out why she was wrong, and that she had misperceived and misjudged the Church. And while the simple fact may not be accurate, because there are Black Catholics in the world, her feeling of not being welcomed is her truth, not something I get to argue against. Hopefully, nobody in the Church intended to make her feel that way, but the fact remains that she does feel that way. And it is now the Church’s responsibility to be more inclusive so that our Black brothers and sisters don’t feel unwelcome anymore.

-Teresa Hull

Mundelein, Illinois

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