Black Saints After Centuries Of Whitewashing

It ssems, the Catholic Church may be ready to proclaim America’s first Black saints and there is more than one.

We are all looking forward to the canonization of New Orlean’s Henriette Delille but she is not the only Black person on the path to sainthood.

There are also Mary Elizabeth Lange ( the founder of the first African-American women religious order in the US), Augustus Tolton (the first Roman Catholic priest in the US who was publicly known to be Black), and Pierre Toussaint, a former Haitian slave turned hairdresser who used his wealth to care for the poor. Like Delille, Toussaint is close to sainthood: like Delille, he currently holds the status of a “venerable.”

As for non-US related Black Catholic saints, there are even more. An Ethiopian eunuch named Bachos was attracted by the Apostle Philip and went on to spread the gospel in Ethiopia. Bishop of Carthage (modern-day Tunis) became one of the strongest Church leaders. Well-known martyrs Perpetua and Felicity came from the same region. And at last, Augustine, one of the most powerful thinkers of Christian history, was born and lived most of his life in the territory of modern Algeria. Though up to the present moment the Church preferred not to draw too much attention to the color of their skin. That is why their images were literally whitewashed. For example, Perpetua is often portrayed as a redhaired woman.

Black saints have stood at the origins of the Church since the early days of the Apostles. And today it is pleasant to see them truly acknowledged.

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