By Father Stephen D. Thorne

I spend a lot of time in my car. Whether it’s going to a meeting or visiting a parish or a school, the car is my second office. Driving in Philadelphia, I am often drawn to the picturesque murals that mark the sides of many of our city’s buildings. I heard that Philadelphia has the most murals of any major city in the nation.

Like all art, each mural seems to tell a story. It might be a message of peace or honor a person of the past, but there’s a story in each one. Recently, I was driving in University City and noticed a mural on the corner of 40th Street and Powelton Avenue. It depicts a boy with his hand raised and has the inscription: “I am large, I contain multitudes.” The image and the message are so positive and inspiring. ##M[read more]##

As I drove away I began to think that same sentiment can rightly be said of our Catholic Church. Indeed, our Church is large and contains multitudes.

The very word “catholic” means universal. Thus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The Church is Catholic because Christ is present in her. Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church” (CCC 830) and “The Church is Catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race” (CCC 831).

This being true, we are so blessed to be part of a Church that is big – bigger than one race, language, culture or nation. Yet we, the Church, are enriched by the multitudes of her members.

The mission of the Office for Black Catholics is to help facilitate the full, active and conscious participation of the African-American community in the life of the Church. We also strive to offer the rich history and culture of African-American Catholics to all our brothers and sisters.

As we begin Black History Month, I invite all to join us at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 6, for a celebration of the history of Black Catholics at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church, 63rd and Callowhill Streets in West Philadelphia. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Camille Brown, a native Philadelphian, who serves as assistant superintendent for Catholic schools in the Diocese of Providence, R.I. Dr. Brown will offer a talk on the great history that we, as African-Americans, bring to our Catholic Church.

All are welcome because it’s a big Church.

Father Thorne is the Director of the archdiocesan Office for Black Catholics.