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Knights of Peter Claver celebrate 111th anniversary

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CNA Staff, Nov 7, 2020 / 04:08 am MT (CNA).- The Knights of Peter Claver, the largest historically African-American Catholic lay organization in the U.S., is marking the anniversary of its founding with a Founder’s Day Mass to be livestreamed to the internet on Saturday.

“Join us as we celebrate 111 years of spreading faith, hope and love through friendship, unity and Christian charity,” the Knights of Peter Claver said.

The Mass was set to be livecast Saturday, Nov. 7 at 4 p.m. Central Time at the Facebook page of the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary and at the Knights of Peter Claver website. Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri of New Orleans will be the celebrant.

The Knights of Peter Claver were founded Nov. 7, 1909 in Mobile, Alabama by four priests of the Josephite Fathers and three laymen as a fraternal organization of black Catholics, dedicated to the principles of Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity. One of its founders, the Baltimore-born Father John H. Dorsey, SSJ, was the second African-American Catholic priest to be educated and ordained in the U.S., the Knights of Peter Claver said.

The Knights of Peter Claver take their name from St. Peter Claver, a Spanish Jesuit who ministered to African slaves in 17th century Cartagena, Colombia, a major port in the slave trade.

The organization, now headquartered in New Orleans, has more than 18,000 members and affiliates worldwide, with over 400 units in 72 dioceses in the U.S. and South America. The organization has a Ladies’ Auxiliary and separate junior divisions for boys and girls.

The Knights of Peter Claver support various parish, diocesan and community efforts, including serving the poor, creating Catholic community and forming youth. They have worked alongside the National Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for the advancement of civil rights.

Membership is open to practicing Catholics of all races and ethnicities.

One of its members is Cardinal-designate Wilton Gregory of Washington, who will become the first African-American cardinal at a Nov. 28 consistory in Rome.

“Archbishop Gregory is a long-time member of the Knights of Peter Claver who has been an ardent supporter of our causes over the years,” the Knights of Peter Claver said Oct. 25. “We are particularly proud of the leadership he has provided to the American Catholic Church on issues of race and the dignity of human life.”

They noted Gregory’s archdiocesan initiative “Made in God’s Image: Pray and Work to End the Sin of Racism,” which will promote pastoral activities and outreach, including prayer, faith formation and social justice work.

Following the protests and controversy surrounding the death of George Floyd this summer, the Knights of Peter Claver hosted webinars on the dignity of black lives, racism, domestic violence, human trafficking, and criminal justice reform.

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