By Arlene Edmonds
Special to The CS&T

WYNNEWOOD – There are five more faithful Catholics ready to serve African-American parishes in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. These 2009 recipients of the Ministry to African-American Catholics (MAAC) certificate from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood received their diplomas recently.

All spoke of their unique spiritual journeys when they were honored with a reception at the seminary on the heels of their graduation ceremony. Among those draped in red, black, green and white kente scarves with the letters OCB (standing for the Office of Black Catholics) were husband and wife Ricardo and Barbara Jenkins from St. Martin de Porres Parish in North Philadelphia.

“This is a very informative program,” said Ricardo, who along with his wife just flew in from Florida to make it to the MAAC reception on May 19. “It has given me a new meaning and validity. It was just a refreshing experience.”

Barbara Jenkins added that last week’s graduation marked “a turning point” in her life because now she would take all that she learned and begin to evangelize to others. “I now have a different spirituality in my life so as I share it with my brothers and sisters, especially in the black community, it will be my contribution to the Catholic faith,” she said.

This year’s other MAAC recipients were Delores Garrett and Harriet King from Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in West Philadelphia, and Jennie Goode-Park of Immaculate Conception Parish in Germantown. For Garrett being able to impart accurate information about Catholicism to her grandchildren and other young people is important.

“I am a living example that you are never too old to learn and I plan to continue learning and motivating others to do so,” she said.

King admitted that her initial motive for entering the MAAC program was more personal. She was recovering from a stroke and had lost much of her short-term memory. She decided to enroll in courses because she felt studying would fortify her memory. But once she began taking classes she soon found that the blessings involved more than just improving her retention.

“One of my instructors, Camille Brown, said to me I should finish the program,” King said. “I was really getting so much out of it. I had been a dedicated Catholic all my life, but I learned more about my religion and what it meant to be a Catholic from this program. I am now ready to help others in my parish and to increase my activities in the Church.”

King said that she first took courses in the MAAC program in 1998. She thanked her instructors, singling out Carolyn Jenkins, Dr. Camille Brown and Father Stephen Thorne, director of the Office for Black Catholics, for working with her. She also thanked the Martin de Porres Foundation for making the program possible and underwriting the tuition of the MAAC students, as well as the Office for Black Catholics for administering the program. She said though she is a cradle Catholic she is now better equipped to work with the RCIA group in her parish.

The reception opened with remarks from Father Thorne. He said that what made it a great day was the fact that the graduates would be able to enrich others in their home parishes. He added that there is now an arm of MAAC in Camden and in the near future, with the addition of online courses, those in dioceses across the country will have access to the program.

Auxiliary Bishop Robert P.

Maginnis led an opening prayer before MAAC director Marion Corbin explained the program. Remarks also came from Carmina Magnusen Chapp, academic dean of the Seminary’s Religious Studies spanision and Kathy Hamilton, head of the Martin de Porres Foundation. Msgr. Federico A. Britto, pastor of St. Cyprian Parish and a MAAC instructor, led the closing prayer.

Arlene Edmonds is a freelance writer and St. Raymond of Penafort parishioner. She may be reached at