Catholics celebrate culture, diversity of Black History Month

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PROVIDENCE — To conclude its observance of Black History Month, the Office of Black Catholic Ministry hosted its annual celebration at St. Michael’s Church in Providence Saturday.

The theme of the evening event was “Black History Around the World,” with an emphasis placed on unity among African, Haitian, Hispanic, and African-American Catholics within the Diocese of Providence.

Participation in the celebration has grown steadily since the first event was held in 1983. From that time, the diocese has grown both in population and in diversity, and the different cultures that are now part of the Catholic community were represented during the celebration through the different choirs and speakers.

“This night is all about unity,” said Mistress of Ceremonies Phyllis Araujo. “It’s about bringing everyone together, remembering the past, and trying to create positive influences and good fellowship.”

The night featured a variety of youth choirs, beginning with the St. Michael’s Choir of Angels Children’s Choir and the Bishop McVinney Youth Choir. The choirs all sang uplifting songs and had the audience swaying along to the inspiring lyrics.

The evening also showcased Black History Month Essay Contest winner Tara Louis-Jean, who read her essay on the evangelization efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the ways she personally practices evangelization in her life. The essay contest is an annual competition hosted by the Black Catholic Ministry and awards Border’s Books gift certificates and various prizes for the contest participants. Later in the evening, third place finisher Laura Pichardo read her essay as well.

The emphasis on unity was highlighted by the different stories of faith presented throughout the night. A Haitian story of faith was given by Ghislain Joseph, followed by a Hispanic story of faith by the Hispanic Choir and Dancers under the direction of Iris Sanchez, and an African story of faith by the St. Michael’s African Community Choir featuring Henry Rwasa.

“We really wanted to show how diverse our population has become over the years,” said Black Catholic Ministry Coordinator Patty January. “We have seen more Haitians and Hispanics come into our neighborhoods and we want them to be included and welcomed in our celebration.”

Following the songs, speeches, and prayers, the audience was treated to a reception which featured ethnic dishes prepared by various members of the Black Catholic community.