Archbishop Nelson Pérez will open Black Catholic History Month in the Philadelphia Archdiocese by celebrating the 59th annual St. Martin de Porres Mass Nov. 6 at 3 p.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

Concelebrating with Archbishop Pérez will be numerous priests from the archdiocesan Black Catholic Apostolate.

During the Mass, the archbishop will confer the sacrament of confirmation on several young people from parishes in the Black Catholic community, while recognizing the 40th anniversary of the ordination of the archdiocese’s first Black Catholic permanent deacons by John Cardinal Krol Nov. 7, 1982.

(Related: Black Catholics gear up for national gathering)

In both the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the universal Church, Black Catholics have a rich history, tradition and spirituality, with a number of patrons such as St. Martin de Porres. Born in Lima, Peru in 1579, the saint was the illegitimate son of a Black freewoman from Panama and a Spanish nobleman. Throughout his life, St. Martin de Porres encountered poverty, discrimination and hardship, but remained undeterred and dedicated himself to caring for the poor and the sick. After much struggle, he was allowed to become a Dominican lay brother. Pope John XXIII canonized Martin de Porres in 1962, making him the first saint of African descent in the Americas.


Several other Black Catholics are now on the path to canonization: Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1776-1853), a former slave who became an entrepreneur and philanthropist; Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange (1784-1882), foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence; Venerable Henriette Delille (1813-1862), foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family; Julia Greeley (born between 1833 and 1848; died 1918), a former slave who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; Sister Thea Bowman (1937-1990), who converted to Catholicism as a child and entered religious life as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration; and Venerable Augustus Tolton (1854-1897), a former slave who became the first known black Roman Catholic priest from the United States.

All are welcome to attend the Nov. 6 Mass. For more information, please contact Father Stephen Thorne at