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Editor’s Note: Telling Their Stories

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Recently I sat down with a journalism student and answered questions about my career. When she asked what I like most about my job, I didn’t hesitate: “Learning about and telling people’s stories,” I responded. “Interviews are an opportunity to encounter people and their lives that I likely never would otherwise. And,” I added, “it’s taught me to better appreciate and empathize with others.”

But stories aren’t limited to the present.

We plan out themes for issues of The Catholic Telegraph six months to a year in advance, so I’ve known for a while that our November issue would focus on Catholic Black History Month. And even though I often assign the majority of our stories to our talented writing team, there was one story I wanted to write personally.

I learned about the six African Americans on the path to sainthood through Deacon Royce Winters, the archdiocesan director of African American Ministries. Their stories, I knew, were ones of tragedy and triumph, determination and grace – and I wanted to research, learn and tell their stories.

I attempted to mentally fortify myself for the research. As a native of the Deep South, I’ve personally witnessed the plantations and slave quarters that are part of our country’s ugly past. But as I read the histories of these six men and women, particularly that of Servant of God Julia Greeley, who sustained permanent damage to her eye and face when she was whipped as a slave at just 5-years-old, my stomach churned and a heavy weight settled upon my shoulders.

With the lives of these six faithful men and women on my mind, I settled into Mass that Sunday. Included in the second reading for the day was the following verse:

“Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.” (Phil 2:3).

And that is exactly what Venerable Henriette DeLille, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, Venerable Augustus Tolton, Mary Elizabeth Lange, OSP, Julia Greeley and Thea Bowman did – despite the hardships of their lives, they still placed the needs of others before their own, serving them as Christ would. I pray that as you read about their lives, as well as those of many other influential African Americans featured in this issue, that you listen, learn and remember their stories and let them help fortify your own faith.

Jessica

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Editor’s Note appeared in the November issue of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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