Click here if you don’t see subscription options
A woman prays during a Black History Month Mass of thanksgiving at Immaculate Conception Church in the Jamaica Estates section of the new York borough of Queens Feb. 20, 2022. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

If you have not yet seen Sister Thea Bowman’s 1989 address to the U.S. bishops, pause whatever you’re doing and go watch it. And for any newly ordained U.S. bishop, it should be required viewing. That’s the conviction of Manuel Williams, C.R., a Resurrectionist priest, the pastor of Resurrection Catholic Church in Montgomery, Ala., and professor of Black Catholic spirituality.

Father Williams joins “The Gloria Purvis Podcast” to celebrate the tour de force who was his friend and mentor, Thea Bowman, F.S.P.A., who is now on the path to beatification and canonization. They discuss the importance of a distinctly Black spirituality, including song, preaching, art, worship and prayer in Catholic parishes and communities. Father Williams explains what anti-racist preaching means and why it matters at church.

“We have to acknowledge that the experience of Africanness that our ancestors brought to this country, the experience of the middle passage, the experience of enslavement, the experience of Jim Crow, the experience of the great migration, the experience now of voter oppression and renewed rancid racism—all of that affects the way I prayed to my Jesus,” Father Williams says, “and to deny that is nonsense.”

Gloria Purvis and Father Williams talk about how Black Catholics can sustain themselves spiritually when their local parish does not draw from the cultural richness of the African American experience.

According to Father Williams, it is not the case that white spirituality doesn’t exist or have a home in the church but rather that the default spirituality has been white and has been assumed to be normative for everyone else. Anti-racist preaching and the full inclusion of Black spirituality takes seriously the mystery of the Incarnation, through which, Father Williams says, “every culture, every manifestation, every expression of humanity is honored, is glorified, is affirmed.” Father Williams adds that while the Incarnation affirms every culture, Jesus’ becoming human still takes place “in a concrete place, in a concrete time, in a concrete culture.” And therefore, we celebrate the Black experience as part of the concreteness of the Incarnation.

Gloria and Father Williams also talk about how Black Catholics can sustain themselves spiritually when their local parish does not draw from the cultural richness of the African American experience.

Support “The Gloria Purvis Podcast” by getting a digital subscription to America magazine.

Show Links:

The latest from america

Adding to its dizzying array of takes, America Media has announced four new options for would-be contributors.
James T. KeaneApril 01, 2023
Two people hug reunited in front of a wall
We should focus on what today’s reading outlines as a uniter, that being a sanctuary under God.
Cristobal SpielmannMarch 31, 2023
Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial overhaul plan outside the parliament in Jerusalem, Monday, March 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been coming out into the streets for the past three months in escalating pro-democracy protests against the most politically and religiously extreme right-wing government Israel has ever had.
Judith SudilovskyMarch 31, 2023
Pope Francis waving to the crowd in front of a depiction of Che Guevera in Havana, Cuba
Ahead of the U.S. theatrical release of “In Viaggio: The Travels of Pope Francis,” America spoke with Gianfranco Rosi about his ideas for the documentary and how the film is a modern-day Stations of the Cross.
Ryan Di CorpoMarch 31, 2023