Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Black and Catholic in the South

Been meaning to blog on this new release from Paulist Press: Black and Catholic in the Jim Crow South: The stuff that makes community by Danny Duncan Collum, a native Mississippian. Saw it in the last catalog from the press, and read the great article on in the last issue of Glenmary Challenge. Haven't read the book (isn't one's "too read" list always longer than the limitations of space and, especially, time? :)) yet. But the Glenmary article was an eyeopener.
For most of Mississippi’s history, there have been more Catholics than Baptists living in the city of Natchez, making it the center of Catholicism in a decidedly Protestant state.

It seems appropriate, then, for a Catholic church located in that city to have been the center of the African-American freedom movement. In its 100-plus-year history, Holy Family Catholic Church, the oldest African-American Catholic parish in Mississippi and one of the oldest in the country, has served as a “beacon to the community,” according to parishioner Ora Frazier.

Frazier, and over 40 other members of this Catholic community, tell the story of their parish and its role in the 1960s civil rights movement in the recently released Black and Catholic in the Jim Crow South (Paulist Press). The book, written by Mississippi native Danny Duncan Collum, is based on oral interviews conducted in 1994 by Glenmary Father Tim Murphy.

This book grows out of a project initiated in the 1980s by the Glenmary Research Center and the Josephite Fathers and Brothers, whose priests have staffed the parish throughout its history. The book aims, through the stories and words of Holy Family parishioners, “to leave the reader with some sense of what it was like to be a double minority—black and Catholic—in the 20th-century South,” says Duncan Collum. “And to provide a clearer picture of the testimony the Catholic Church offered during the age of Jim Crow.”
Given the generally small number of Catholics in the South, one doesn't hear much about the role of the Church in the civil rights struggle. In our own diocese, one hears the tales of Bishop Patrick Lynch, who defended slave ownership and was sent to the Vatican as a representative of the Confederacy by Jefferson Davis, and then Bishop Ernie Unterkoeffler, and his courageous role in the desegregation of SC schools. But that's really it. Or, rather, that's really the limit of my knowledge. So, yes, this looks like a great read!

[Ugh! While googling for Bishop Patrick N. Lynch I came across this page. Talk about Catholic apologists for the old south! Another article on there? The Daughters of Seton in the war for Southern independence! Woah! And it's a religious congregation? Then there's this piece at the SSPX website. (rolls eyes)]. As to the Church and slavery? It's quite complicated. And disturbing at times. I'll blog on that at some point. Maybe.


Napoleon said...

To add to South Carolina history. From my time as a volunteer I learned that Monsignor Thomas Duffy is a local hero from the 1960's in the black community. He walked right beside Bishop Undeorkoeffler (sp?), especially in the Hospital Workers' strike in the 1970's. Just in case anyone was interested.

Gashwin said...

Msgr. Duffy was a powerfhosue from all I've gatehred! RIP and pray for us! It was indeed an honor to have met him and talked with him -- he gave a guest lecture on civil rights at our parish a few years back.