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GUEST COLUMNIST | Encouraging vocations for minorities

On June 3, 2006, the Feast of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, I was blessed to be ordained a deacon for the Archdiocese of St. Louis by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke.

Since that day, no other African-American has been ordained to the order of deacon.

Since the order of deacon was reinstituted by Pope Paul VI, there have been 20 African-American deacons ordained for our archdiocese. At the present time, I am the only African-American deacon in active ministry in this archdiocese. I serve the North City Deanery at Sts. Teresa and Bridget Parish. Presently, there are no African-Americans in formation for the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The next beginning class for formation will be for the ordination class in 2024.

While I am emphasizing the lack of vocations to the permanent diaconate in the African-American community, I am also addressing the fact that there are also few vocations in most so-called minority races to the priesthood, permanent diaconate and religious communities in our archdiocese. To me, this is a very troubling circumstance for our archdiocese. This is not just a North City problem. In our ever growing multi-ethnic region, there is need for all so-called minority communities to be served. Most people respond favorably to leadership of those who look like them and are aware of their culture.

I have spent much time praying and wondering why more men of minority communities are not being drawn to or hearing God’s call to ministry in the Catholic Church.

Some people may not realize that Christianity did not begin in Europe. But as is described in the Acts of the Apostles (8: 26-40), black Christian history began with the conversion of the Ethiopian eunich by Philip, the deacon. This text chronicles the conversion of the first black African in recorded biblical history. This man was a wealthy, literate, powerful emissary of the Nubian queen and a faithful, practicing Jew, prior to his baptism. This biblical testimony should put to rest the belief that the Catholic Church is a white, European Church. It is a Church, open and welcoming to all people, not only as lay members of the Mystical Body of Christ but also as clerical leaders in all of our Catholic Church communities.

If you are a man or know of any man in your parish, especially of a minority group, who you believe would be a good candidate to serve the Church as a permanent deacon, please encourage him to inquire about the permanent diaconate. If he is at least 35 years of age, speak to your pastor or have him contact Deacon Charles Allen, (314) 303-2679, or the Office of the Permanent Diaconate, (314) 792-7432.

Deacon Allen is a permanent deacon at Sts. Teresa and Bridget Parish in St. Louis.

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