Black Catholic History

History Month

Black Catholic History Month is celebrated each year in November.

History in the Archdiocese of Detroit

In the early 1900s, a man named Norman Dukette visited St. Mary’s Parish in Greektown, Detroit. There, he volunteered to help organize a black Catholic mission inside the church. Dukette also joined the seminary and in 1926 became the first African-American to be ordained a priest in Detroit.

Similar chapels and missions for black Catholics were set up throughout Detroit beginning in the 1870s.

Dukette’s mission at St. Mary's was later moved to the Sacred Heart Church near Eastern Market where it became known as St. Peter Claver Parish, the first full parish in Detroit dedicated to black Catholics.

From the Bible

In the New Testament, Acts of the Apostles [8:26-40], Philip the Evangelist is called by God to leave Jerusalem and travel south. On the road he meets an Ethiopian whom he converts to Christianity. This is believed to be the story of the earliest known African Catholic and significant to today’s black Catholics because the converted man went on to create the Ethiopian Church. Today the Church has approximately 40 million members.

Early History

Another early connection between the Catholic Church and Africa was made during the era of the Roman Empire, which included many modern-day nations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, including Africa. Between 189 and 496 AD, three popes from the northern African region of Rome rose to the papacy—popes Victor I, Gelasius I and Melchiades—all three of whom were later canonized.