By Deborah Bailey,
Special to the AFRO
In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic the pace of the world transitioned from frantic to still, allowing a small group of young Black Catholics to see even more clearly what had been evident for years.
Their voice was too often muted, adjusted, omitted even for the sake of others both inside and out of the church. Out of this omission and less than full representation grew the need for a new platform for the transmission of Black Catholic life.
The Black Catholic Messenger is an on-line platform that started in fall 2020. In its mission statement, the publication’s founders state the need for Black Catholic stories to be told by Black Catholics.
“The notable Black Christians reporting on Black Catholic issues are either a. not Catholic, or b. Catholic, but writing for outlets that target White audiences with content tailored to their concerns and interests,” the publication’s web description states.
The on-line publication includes news and perspective articles written from the standpoint of the Black Catholic community, events and issues critical to the Catholic Church, cultural issues relevant to the domestic and international Black community, arts and entertainment and books, editorials, a calendar of Holy Days, celebrations, and dates of significance for Black Catholics.
The platform is refreshed daily.
At the helm of this enterprise is a newcomer to the Catholic Church, Nate Tinner-Williams. Williams attends the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in Louisiana, and attends the Theological College at Catholic University of America where he is preparing for the priesthood.
Sounds like the path of a devout, life-long Catholic? Well, not so.
The most compelling part of Williams’ story is that he is relatively new to the Catholic Church, having completed his journey to Catholicism in 2019. The AFRO reached out to find out more about how this Black Catholic “transplant” became involved in developing a publication for the community of more than three-million Black Catholics, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
.“The year after I converted, I started asking around about whether a Black Catholic Newspaper was still around,” said Williams.
Williams had already done research and reading into Catholicism before his conversion. You can say Catholicism was in his bloodline. It turns out his mother. was adopted from a family of Black Catholics, including his grandparents.
“I didn’t know any of this at the time I was going through my conversion,” Williams said. By the time Williams converted he had already done a lot of reading and research into the Black Catholic tradition.
The first Black Catholic newspaper owned and operated by a Black American was the American Catholic Tribune, developed from the Ohio Tribune, founded by Daniel Rudd in 1885. Rudd, both a journalist and activist, was also the founder of what is currently known as the Black Catholic Congress.
The American Catholic Tribune printed its last issue in 1897. Williams indicated there were a few other attempts at a national publication for Black Catholics but nothing sustained.
“There wasn’t really anything out there,” Williams said. “So I said, ‘why don’t we have a news outlet like the other Catholic groups do?’”
“I and a group of other young Black Catholics said, ‘let’s do that,’” Williams said. According to Williams, the platform reaches readers across the United States and the world. “Our focus has specifically been on African-American Catholics, so wherever they are in the world, we will write about them,” he said.
“I want African-American Catholics to see our publication as their platform. This is a place for their stories to be told. We’re looking for more stories and more writers. We want more people to join us however they can,” Williams said.
Check out the Black Catholic Messenger at: https://www.blackcatholicmessenger.com.
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