Celebrating Black Catholic History Month, Archdiocese of Washington recognizes three individuals for their leadership within the local community

Monday, November 14, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Each November, the Catholic Church commemorates Black Catholic History Month and celebrates the rich history and proud heritage of Black Catholics. In the Archdiocese of Washington this weekend, a special liturgy honoring three leaders within the community was celebrated at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Washington by Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington.

Before the Mass, parishioners from across the archdiocese spent time in praise and worship led by the Archdiocese of Washington Gospel Choir, the musical accompaniment for the liturgy. The Choir was formally established in 1983 under the direction of late Leon C. Roberts. Currently under the direction of Lynné Gray and Henry Herrera, the choir is comprised of representatives from multiple parishes. The choir has sung at numerous archdiocesan and parish events over the last 25 years, including the 2008 Papal Mass with Pope Benedict XVI, the 2015 Papal Mass with Pope Francis, as well as the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrations.

In his homily, Monsignor Charles Pope expressed gratitude for the gift of joy in the Black Catholic worship experience. “What makes us God’s people is that we look to God together,” he explained. He prayed that people of goodwill will stand up and speak for peace.

After the Mass, Sandra Coles-Bell, Program Director of the Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach in the Archdiocese of Washington, and Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville recognized three individuals in the local Black Catholic community for their service and steadfast witness to the faith. As the honorees included one priest, one deacon and one woman, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville spoke to the power of family as the starting point for evangelization within the Church. The honorees exemplify the richness of the Black Catholic experience within the universal, diverse faith community.

  • Monsignor Raymond G. East, a graduate from the University of San Diego who attended Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas, Texas and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, was ordained in 1981 for the Archdiocese of Washington by Cardinal James A. Hickey. Currently serving as pastor of St. Teresa of Avila parish in Southeast Washington, he has received awards from PAX Christi USA and the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, and worked in Liturgy, Youth Ministry and Evangelization. Rev. Msgr. Raymond G East is also board member of the Center for Ministry Development.
  • Deacon Al Douglas Turner was ordained a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of Washington in 2000 and is currently assigned to St. Joseph Catholic Church in Largo, MD. He received a Graduate Certificate in Spiritual Direction from the Washington Theological Union in Washington D.C. in 2006, where he also holds a Master of Theological Studies degree. Before his retirement in 2007, Deacon Turner was employed for more than 28 years by ABC News as a broadcast technician. He has been active in Pro-Life ministries for many years, and served as Coordinator of Office of Worship and Director of the Office of Black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington. In 2014, he received the Faith Does Justice Award from Catholic Charities.
  • Jacqueline E. Wilson is a native of Washington, D.C., and a member of St. Helena Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware. Holding an A.B. degree from The Catholic University of America and M.Ed. degree from Howard University, she served in a number of leadership positions for the Catholic Church, including executive director of the Office of Black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington for more than 20 years. Wilson is a teacher, tutor, author, parish council charter member and officer, parish catechist and founder of multiple black outreach programs. She was notably appointed by Saint John Paul II as observer and speaker at the Synod of Evangelization in the Americas in 1997.

Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville concluded the Mass asking that we each may reach a deeper understanding of our faith. Following the Mass, the congregation was invited to venerate the relics of Saints Augustine, Stephen and Antoninus of Alexandria, Monica, Felicity, Perpetua, Charles, Victor, Martin de Porres –all saints from Africa.

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The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C. and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Lizzie Wahle
(301) 853-4516
[email protected]