Black Catholic History Month on Display at Diocese Academy

Tags: Currents Black Catholic History Month, Black Catholics, Black Christ, Black History, Brooklyn, NY, Catholic Education, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Media

By Jessica Easthope

We were all made in God’s image and likeness – but the reality is that these students have to look a little harder to find an image of Jesus that looks like them.

But one place they see their diversity reflected in faith is right here in the hallways of Salve Regina Catholic Academy in East New York.

“Usually they’re represented as white people or Caucasian and it feels nice to see different people of color,” said seventh-grader Michelle Ebesunun.

Classmate Brennan Elder thinks about diversity.

“In the time we live in, diversity is very important,” Brennan said, “so it’s good to see that.”

Brennan says here at school, he’s represented, but he doesn’t see many other images of Jesus as Black.

“If you search ‘Jesus Christ’ on Google, the first three pages are going to be white, straight hair,” Brennan said, “because that’s how He’s mostly represented and that needs to change.”

So we tested his theory – and sadly he’s right.

Salve Regina decided to change up the depictions of the Holy Family, Last Supper and other iconic images at a student’s request. That student has now graduated but pastor Father Brendan Buckley, O.F.M. Cap,  says he did the school a tremendous favor.

“Thank you for asking the right question,” Father Buckley said. “That question prompted me to then think about how do we see the reflection of our true Catholic identity as universal through art.”

According to researchers at Georgetown University, of those who have entered religious life from 2005 on: white men and women make up an overwhelming majority; Asians account for 12 percent; Latinos 11 percent and African- Americans only four percent. All other ethnicities came in at five percent.

Father Alonzo Cox says these images have the power to transform hearts – and maybe even help these students one day, discern their call.

“That’s a major part of stirring a young person’s vocation to priesthood or religious life,” Father Cox said, “seeing an image of our Lord that looks like him and represents who he is as a Black Catholic.”

The school is adding new diverse religious images to its halls all the time in the hope of one day having the ethnicity of every student represented.

You can join in on the diocesan celebration of Black Catholic History Month this Sunday, Nov. 21 at 1 p.m. (EST). The Mass will be at Our Lady of Victory Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and is in collaboration with the Archdiocese of New York. 

The Mass will salute historically Black sororities and fraternities from colleges across the country.