10 Things to Know About the  BCI
February, 2017 
  Just like the Faith, the Drum works for us if you pass it on.



  Black Catholic Initiative hosts 2nd annual Commemoration of the Civil Rights Movement 
Dr. Lena McLin with the "Unbroken Circle"Award 
The Black Catholic Initiative (BCI) hosted its second annual Commemoration of the Civil rights Movement on January 13th at the Archbishop Quigley Pastoral Center at St. James Chapel, 835 N. Rush St.  The commemoration was headlined by Jacquelyn (Jacky) D. Grimshaw, vice president for policy at the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT).  

For the first time the Commemoration included the recognition of a local civil rights pioneer. Dr. Lena McLin received the “Unbroken Circle” Award for her achievements as a long-time music educator, composer, author and pastor. The evening included performances by McLin’s choral group, an interpretative reading of the works of Dr. King by Brandon Sapp and the keynote from Grimshaw.  
Brandon Sapp does interpretative reading of Dr. Martin Luther King
Performance by Dr. McLin and Choir 

1. Let Us Pray 

That all Christians will find and use
the prophetic voice given by God
to protect the dignity of humanity.

That we will not be silent or silenced!

  Please submit all prayer requests to
2. Next opportunity to join the BCI
Black Catholics in LENT
A Force against violence!
A Workshop Responding with Faith
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Holy Name of Mary 
Ministry Center
11159 S. Loomis 
10:00 am 

RSVP required for lunch
3.  On The Air 
Deacon John Cook hosts this weekly half-hour program that explores a wide range of topics relevant to Chicago's Black and Catholic communities.  Deacon Cook serves at St. Felicitas Parish in Chatham, and is very involved in overseeing youth programs in the Bronzeville neighborhood. 

Tune in and Call in

Let’s talk about faith!

Make Them Hear You!   

February 14th - Diane Ashberry - Grand Lady KPC

February 21 - Ned Hughes - President of Mt. Carmel 

February 28 - Brandon Sapp - Youth Leader


   4.  Cause of Father Tolton 

Father Tolton Exhumation 
Dec 9-10 2016
St. Peter Cemetery
Quincy, Illinois

Connected with beatification and canonization processes for an individual or group of people, the Church has maintained interest in the deceased’s remains of the proposed saints especially in times of persecution, to save the person’s remains from further profanation by enemies of the Church or by simple deterioration, and for purposes of amassing relics of the holy individuals for veneration. Establishing where the person is buried also gives credence to the fact that the person existed and was not a figment of someone or some group’s imagination. Lastly, and perhaps more remarkably, the Church is interested in determining whether the person is incorrupt as one indication of holiness of life as some saints have been discovered in their graves or tombs over the stretch of history. The canonization rite has a part therein whereby a relic of the new saint is presented to the Holy Father.

The Church’s venerable tradition treats the bodily remains of the faithful with reverence given that the body in life is baptized, anointed and sacralized through reception of the Holy Eucharist and following death is destined for resurrection. Any surprised discovery of the bodily remains of the faithful, for example, in various catacombs around the world and other places has hastened the Church to preserve these places or at least collect the remains of the faithful found there. The remains of the deceased faithful are never just discarded.

21 June 2016 Congregation for Causes of Saints issued the
nihil obstat to Bishop Thomas Paprocki, bishop of Springfield in Illinois, for the opening of the grave of Father Augustus Tolton at St. Peter Cemetery, Quincy, Illinois 33rd & Broadway & Maine Streets. Cooperation between the two cemetery staffs of the Diocese of Springfield and the Archdiocese of Chicago plus the assistance of a forensic pathologist, medical examiner and archeologist composed the staffing for this unique task.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki was present, Msgr. Patrick Pollard and Roman Szabelski of Archdiocesan Cemeteries Office advanced many of the preparations and brought down necessary supplies and equipment, arranged for meals, hotel stays, etc. Journalists and camera people from the two diocesan papers were aboard. All the
people involved couldn’t have been more cooperative and aware of the sacred task before us.
Cemeteries had done some advanced work before. The actual little mound where the huge cruciform grave marker stands was built up with earth about two-and-a-half feet higher than the actual level of the ground where Tolton was buried
this to support the great weight of the grave stone. Fr. John Patrick Kerr d. 1914’s grave was on the other side of the marker.

It has been 119 years since Father Tolton’s death (1897); we weren’t sure what there might be left in his grave following so long a time. Ground penetrating radar equipment had located the exact location of the two graves. Prep work had opened the grave to within inches of the coffin on December 9th a cold day in the 20s degrees Fahrenheit. Ground equipment emptied the grave area to about six-and-a- half feet down and ten-eleven-feet wide.

Police were assigned on site overnight to make sure curiosity seekers were kept away.
Saturday, December 10, proved to be an overcast day, in the 20s again and quite frosty. Tents were set up over the grave and adjacent for sitting, meals and warmth. The Diocese of Springfield prepared a morning prayer that got us started at 7.30am. An air of reverential quiet descended upon everyone. Franciscan priests came over from Quincy University where Augustus attended college and Chicago and a priest representative from the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri
where the Tolton’s labored as slaves at Brush Creek. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on the hole in the ground where work had begun and where we soon would meet Father Tolton in person.

The weight of the earth and the work of nature’s years had obviously settled the soil pressing down on the coffin to about 6” in height. The wooden parts of the coffin, rectangular in shape, were completely deteriorated. We were getting closer to meeting Augustus through his physical remains.

The remaining soil removed in buckets allowed the archeologist, anthropologist and an autopsy-pathologist using spatulas, brushes and scrapers to arrive at the actual coffin itself. Slowly but surely, the handles on the casket were emerging one-by-one and in very good condition. It was a glass-top coffin as evidenced by many large pieces of broken glass collected that had crashed in on the bodily remains. The earth had caved in on the body of Father Tolton pressing him into the earth no doubt we do return to the earth from which we came!

Painstaking work took over with the delicate hand scraping and brushing. Suddenly the top of Father Tolton’s skull began to appear, it was found cracked under the earth’s pressure in several places. Any cloth material that decorated the interior of the coffin and Father’s burial clothing had disintegrated completely, a crucified Jesus from inside the coffin emerged – it’s wooden backdrop deteriorated, a much larger cross apparently from atop the coffin was also found the back of which was gone, pieces of Father Tolton’s Roman collar were collected – the only part of his clothing salvaged; apparently he had a rosary in his hands, the tiny cross from the rosary was recovered.

Work involved lifting Father’s Tolton’s skeleton parts from the embrace of the earth. His femurs, rib bones, spinal vertebrae, collar bones, collapsed pelvis, portion of the arm bones and other smaller bones were all brought forward. All bones were encrusted with the earth and proved to be delicate such that the specialists decided not to wash the bones as had been originally planned.

The skeletal remains were laid out on a table that had been prepared first with an alb, white Roman chasuble and maniple, amice and cincture the Diocese of Springfield wanted to wrap his skeleton in the new set of burial vestments.

The specialist reading the bones immediately identified that the bones belonged to a man of about five feet/eight inches height who had died in his early forties and that he was black. Father Tolton apparently had a good set of teeth. No traces of skin or flesh could be detected anywhere on the skeleton.

Bishop Paprocki and I proceeded to secure the newly vested skeleton in a white body-bag zipped up and funeral directors placed it in a new grey/silver coffin with an inscription The Servant of God, Father Augustus Tolton, born April 1, 1854, ordained April 24, 1886 and death 9 July 1897. A document was placed on top of the remains attesting to the work done today. The entire coffin was red-ribboned and given the waxed seal of the Diocese of Springfield by Bishop Paprocki. The coffin was in turn placed in a burial vault with an inscription of Father’s name and years of birth and death. Another burial vault received the broken glass and coffin parts and both containers were reinterred in the grave and covered over with the soil, to await news of beatification.

A closing prayer closed off the sacred work finished just shortly after 11am. We sang “Holy God We Praise Thy Name,” that was sung and accompanied by a musical band when Father Tolton returned to Quincy for his first mass summer 1886, and then sung at his funeral in Chicago.

Springfield Diocesan officials will draw up a required report to send to the Congregation for Causes of Saints at the Vatican.

Bishop Joseph N Perry

  5.  Office of Catholic Schools


The Black Catholic Initiative (BCI)
is accepting essays from Catholic school students   


Essays must be:

500 - 1,500 words in length;
Submitted by a faculty member of your school;
Submitted by Palm Sunday, 2017 to [email protected].

Choose Your Topic:

What would Father Tolton say to Catholics? regarding:


First Prize -  32 GB Tablet
Second Prize -  16GB Tablet

     6.  National Black Catholic Congress

Registration is Scheduled to Open

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: Act justly, love goodness, and walk humbly with your God

National Black Catholic Congress XII

Date:  July 6, 2017, 3:00 pm
Venue:  Hyatt Regency Orlando
Location:  Orlando, Florida

Congress topic may include:

Catholic Family Life
Catholic Social Teaching
Domestic Violence
Health and Wellness
Human Life/Human Dignity
Mental Health
Poverty and Racism
Theology of the Body
Youth and Young Adult Tracks

Plus many others...
 Check the National Black Catholic Conference (NBCC) website frequently as we continue to update information.

Keynote Speakers for National Black Catholic Congress
  Dr. Shannon Dee Williams, Historian
Mr. Bryan Stevenson
Founder and Executive Director
Equal Justice Initiative
Montgomery, Alabama 

Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace Archbishop emeritus of Cape Coast, Ghana 

     7.  BCI Annual Retreat

1.  Persons of Color and Religious at the Same Time: The Oblate Sisters of Providence, 1828-1860, The University of North Carolina Press, 2001

  • 2. Peter C. Phan and Diana L. Hayes (Editors), Many Faces, One Church: Cultural Diversity and the American Catholic Experience,  Rowan and Littlefield Publishers, 2004

3. M. Shawn Copeland, LaReine-Marie Mosely, SND and Albert Raboteau,  Uncommon Faithfulness: The Black Catholic Experience Orbis Press, 2009

4. M. Shawn Copeland, Enfleshing Freedom:  Body, Race and Being - Fortress Press, 2009                                    

 5. M. Shawn Copeland, The Subversive Power of Love: The Vision of Henriette Dellie - Paulest Press, 2009

6. Cyprian Davis, OSB, Henriette Delille: Servant of Slaves, Witness to the Poor, Sisters of the Holy Family, 2004 

7. Jamie T. Phelps, OP, Black and Catholic:  The Challenge and Gift of Black Folk - Marquette University Press, 1998

8. Cecilia Moore, C. Vanessa White, and Paul M. Marshall, Songs of Our Hearts: Meditations of Our Souls - St. Anthony Messenger Press 2006

9. James Chukwuma Okoye, CSSP, Israel and the Nations:  A Mission Theology of the Old Testament - Orbis Books, 2006 

10. Diana L. Hayes, Forged in the Fiery Furnace, African American Spirituality - Orbis Books, 2012 

9.  The BCI received the following announcements from parishes, schools and organizations for the purpose of sharing information and invitation.  

Please seek permission to publish items in this newsletter from the pastor or person responsible for the sponsoring agent.  Please do not violate copyrights.  

America at a Crossroad
  Don’t Miss


6th Annual One Earth Film Festival

March 3-12, 2017!


the Midwest’s premier environmental film fest, returns for its 6th dynamic season.

Featuring 30 films in 47 screenings at 39 venues throughout Chicagoland and neighboring suburbs, as well as at venues in DuPage and Lake Counties -- this year’s festival promises compelling films that offer something for everyone -- from citizens just beginning to learn about sustainability, to already ecologically-minded folks, to families with children as young as three , to teens and young adults.  

Environmental thought leaders, spanning a variety of different topics, will lead discussion and programming immediately following each screening, leaving audiences equipped to take action and deepen their commitment to a sustainable future.


Sunday,  March 5, 2017
"A Small Good Thing"

St. Giles Catholic Church
1045 Columbian
Oak Park, IL

"The Age of Consequences"
Old St. Patrick’s Church
700 W. Adams
Chicago, IL

Sunday,  March 12, 2017
        "Chicago’s True Nature"             
St. James Catholic Church
2907 S. Wabash Avenue
Chicago, IL

Genesis 3:11

Sunday, February 5 at 10 am Mass - Youth Sunday

Monday, February 6, 2017,  7:00 pm
You Don't Know Me Like That!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017,  7:00 pm
I'm Covered!

Holy Name of Mary Church
Corner of 112th Street & Loomis Street
Chicago, IL.


Fr. Maurice Nutt, C.Ss.R., D.Min.
Director, Institute for Black Catholic Studies,
Xavier University
New Orleans, LA

Remembering Our Past

Protecting, Defending, and Caring For our Present

Looking to the Future!

Presents an
African American Heritage Month Concert

Musical Selections

Choirs of St. Ambrose
Marcia Ann Berry, Ambrose Boateng Conductors

Guest Choirs
Chicago Community Chorus
Dr. Keith T. Hampton, Conductor

Sunday, February 12, 2017
4:00 pm

St. Ambrose Catholic Church
1000 E. 47th Street
Chicago, IL.  

Fr. John Owusu, CSSp, Pastor


All are welcome to bring ideas and gifts to this collective work of baptizing, matrimony and anointing, this effort of Kujichagulia, Umoja and Imani.  This is a meeting of the seven sacraments of the  church and the seven principles of Kwanzaa.  This is a meeting of the church. That is what makes it and us truly Catholic.  Stay tuned, stay close, get involved, walk together and don’t you get weary!  There’s a great camp meeting in the Promised Land.  Believe that you are in the camp.
About the Black Catholic Initiative

The Black Catholic Initiative (BCI) has as its focus the 66K African American Catholics served by 351 parishes, 38 of which are predominately African American. The BCI was created to prepare the church for the next generation of African American Catholics, charging them to be fully present and accountable. The goal of the BCI is to come together, and work together in order to give and serve the Church. The BCI is an ethnic ministry that actively participates and offers its work as a gift to the local church of Chicago. Those involved in the BCI will practice Umoja, Kujichagulia and Ujima, (unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility) in order to first give honor to God, and to offer Catholicity with the whole church. The BCI will be one church, not many parishes. In this tried and true tradition, the BCI will plainly and clearly be Catholic.