Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Marlene Quaroni - Florida Catholic
Photography: MARLENE QUARONI | FC
MIAMI GARDENS | M. Annette Mandley-Turner wasn’t a cradle Catholic, but says she converted because she saw Catholics living their faith 24/7.
“It’s a way of life, not just a Sunday experience,” the executive director of the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky’s Office of Multicultural Ministry (formerly the Office of Black Catholic Ministries) said in her keynote speech at the annual Black Catholic History Month luncheon, held Nov. 16. “I decided to become a member of the Catholic family.”
People often tell her that the Catholic Church doesn’t represent black spirituality.
“They ask, why join a Church that doesn’t represent you?” she said. “Black spirituality is different, they say. I tell people there is nothing boring about being a Catholic. Black people have been part of the Catholic Church since its beginning. Recently, black Catholics have brought music, dance and dynamic preaching to the Church. There is something special about being Catholic. Amen?”
The audience responded, “Amen!”
The theme for this year’s luncheon was Black and Catholic, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Black Catholics’ ancestors laid the foundation for their families, Mandley-Turner told the audience of about 150, who were mostly wearing African Kente and Batik attire. Today’s black Catholics are setting an example for the future, she said.
“Don’t let your ancestor’s blood, sweat and tears, both enslaved and free, be in vain,” she said. “Their souls hungered for an opportunity to live their faith. Own it, it’s yours. I don’t see Haitians, Africans, American people, I see people under the overarching umbrella of black Catholics.”
Mandley-Turner said that she attended the 1987 Black Catholic Congress in Washington, D.C., the first since the group’s founding in 1889. The Congress established a National Black Catholic Pastoral Plan which called for more black Catholic voices in the Church. Actions included helping predominantly black Catholic schools, churches and ministry offices, and obtaining the support of the diocese. The Congress also called for black leadership in the Church. During his 1987 United States tour, Pope John Paul II said that the Church needs black Catholics to enliven it and share their blackness and gifts.
MORE BLACK CATHOLIC LEADERS
“You are doing an excellent job here in the Archdiocese of Miami,” Mandley-Turner said. “Archbishop Thomas Wenski is committed to you. Dr. Donnie Edwards, the (associate) superintendent of schools, is an example of a black Catholic in a high position. You need more people in leadership positions, like Dr. Edwards and Katrenia Reeves Jackman, the archdiocesan Office of Black Catholics director. We must encourage our own to come forth.”
Reeves Jackman echoed Mandley-Turner’s words as the luncheon concluded by saying that black Catholics need to be more visible in leadership positions in the archdiocese.
“We have to get on the boards and the committees,” she said. “If the archbishop looks out into the crowd and doesn’t see us, he will think that we aren’t interested.”
In a letter to Reeves Jackman, Archbishop Wenski praised the life and humble example of St. Martin de Porres, whose feast day is Nov. 3.
“Also notable are those blacks whose names appear in the baptismal register dating from the 1530s of our nation’s oldest parish in St. Augustine, Florida,” he said. “We cannot fail to mention Pierre Toussaint, Mother Elizabeth Lange, Father Augustine Tolton, Ms. Julie Greeley and Sister Thea Bowman, all African-Americans on their way towards being canonized as saints.”
ST. MARTIN DE PORRES AWARDS
At the luncheon, this year’s St. Martin de Porres Awards for Excellence were presented to Leona Ferguson Cooper, Zilda Kerr-Gayle, Elizabeth McDugle Davis, Ella M. Brown, Theresa Davis, and Cynthia Lezama.
Ferguson Cooper, from St. Hugh Church in Coconut Grove, is the founder of the St. Martin de Porres Association and a board member of many Catholic organizations. A retired microbiologist, she is also a Dame in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. Coral Gables historian Arva Moore Parks lauded her as the “driving force” behind the preservation of the history and homesteads of Black Gables.
Kerr-Gayle, a parishioner at Visitation Church in North Miami for more than 40 years, was a Social Security officer and is now an auditor at a beach hotel. She is a founding member of the St. Martin de Porres Association as well as the Office of Black Catholics. She serves as a lector, treasurer of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and sacristan at her church.
McDugle Davis, of Holy Redeemer Church in Liberty City, is a former Miami-Dade County Public Schools math teacher. She has been a member of her church pastoral council, Catholic Adults Organization, St. Margaret Mary Guild, St. Matthew Guild, finance council and assistant treasurer. She was a Black Catholic Conference implementation team member for the archdiocesan Office of Black Catholics.
Brown, also of Visitation Church, is a retired nurse who said the most important aspects of her life are faith, family and friends. She serves her church as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, president of the Women’s Council, and member of the finance team, respect life committee and Love and Fellowship prayer group.
Davis, of St. Philip Neri Church in Miami Gardens, was a teacher at Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She has been a member of her church from the time it was a mission. As a mother, she made sure that her children and other children attended Mass regularly by providing them with clothes, transportation, money, and food. She is choir president, member of the Altar Guild, finance committee, Ladies Guild, and a fourth-degree Gracious Lady of the Knights of St. Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary.
Lezama, of Christ the King Church in Perrine, was a nursing manager at VITAS Healthcare and received the VITAS Leadership Council Award. She founded the women’s clinic of Akili, in Nigeria. She is a Mass coordinator, lector, extraordinary minister of holy Communion and member of the Naomi Ministry and black heritage group.