Father Maurice Henry Sands has been named the new executive director of the Black and Indian Mission Office, headquartered in Washington, D.C., effective Sept. 1.
The announcement was made July 20 by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the agency’s Board of Directors. Archbishop Charles Chaput and Baltimore Archbishop William Lori join the cardinal on the agency’s board.
Father Sands, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently serves as assistant director for Native American Affairs with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.
Ordained in 2005, Father Sands served as a parish priest prior to his appointment to the USCCB. He is a full-blooded Native American belonging to the Ojibway, Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes, and grew up on Walpole Island (Bkejwanong First Nation) which is located in the St. Clair River one hour north of Detroit, Michigan.
“It is a great honor, and at the same time it is also very humbling, to be asked to serve as the next executive director of the Black and Indian Mission Office,” Father Sands said. “I will strive my best to be a prayerful and conscientious and obedient servant of the Lord as I assist the bishops of the United States in their efforts to evangelize and catechize and care for the spiritual and pastoral needs of African American and Native American Catholics.”
He succeeds Father Wayne Paysse, who was ordained in 1987 and has served as executive director of the agency since 2007.
“I sought to motivate ‘the People of God’ across the United States to better understand their baptismal call to continue the mission of Jesus in day-to-day life,” Father Paysse said. “I have been humbled to continue the dynamic legacy of St. Katharine Drexel in collaboration with directors of diocesan offices, pastors and principals of schools from coast to coast.”
Among Father Paysse’s many accomplishments were launching the Mission Office website www.blackandindianmission.org, re-establishing “The Sentinel,” a quarterly printed publication on Native American ministry, and hosting online magazines for Black and Indian Catholic interests.
Cardinal Dolan welcomed Father Sands to the Mission Office, and thanked Father Paysse for his many years of service.
“On behalf of Archbishop Chaput, Archbishop Lori, and myself, I would like to express our gratitude to Father Sands for taking on this important missionary role with our Native and African American Catholics,” the cardinal said. “He succeeds Father Paysse, who has served as an effective administrator and a welcoming messenger of the Gospel.
“A special word of thanks, as well, to Archbishop Allen Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit, for allowing Father Sands to participate in this ministry, and to Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans, for the many years of generous service that Father Paysse has given.”
The Black and Indian Mission Office is comprised of three distinct but related organizations, each with its own purpose and history. Founded by the Catholic bishops of the United States, each organization cooperates with local diocesan communities to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and respond to real and pressing needs.
The three organizations are the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, established in 1874; the Commission for the Catholic Missions, established in 1884; and the Catholic Negro-American Mission Board, established 1907 and united with the bureau in 1980.