Father Stephen D. Thorne

When I was a doctoral student at Bowie State University in Maryland, I was able to  learn more about the history of that state. One day during my time there, I traveled to Dorchester County to visit the museum dedicated to Harriet Tubman, located just a few miles from where she grew up. Born as Araminta Ross in March 1822 she endured the evil of slavery. However, this woman of great faith knew that slavery was not God’s plan for her.

I have always been inspired by the courage and strength of this woman, who was known as the “Moses” of her people. As the conductor of the Underground Railroad’, Harriet Tubman helped to lead thousands of enslaved Africans to freedom. In fact, she spent many days in Philadelphia as she went back and forth to Maryland to lead others to freedom.

As I walked about this town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I was inspired when I saw the mural that is painted on the side of one of the buildings. This piece of art depicts Harriet Tubman making the invitation to come forth on the journey of freedom.

The mural entitled, “Take My Hand,” was painted by artist  Michael Rosato. (Fr. Thorne)

February is dedicated as Black History Month throughout the country and is an invitation for all to know and celebrate the gifts of people of African descent. This month is not only for African Americans, but also for all people to know the contributions of Black people that have shaped the United States as a nation. Indeed, Black History is American History.

As I stood before the mural of Harriet Tubman with her hand stretched out in invitation, I asked myself, “How often do I invite?” An invitation is a sacred moment to accompany.

How often do I invite people to come and join me at Mass?

How often do I invite people to embrace the freedom that only God can give in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation?

How often do I invite someone new to get involved in parish life?

And the list could go on…

At the closing Mass of the recent Synod in Rome, Pope Francis said, “Brothers and sisters, the general assembly of the synod has now concluded. In this ‘conversation of the Spirit,’ we have experienced the loving presence of the Lord and discovered the beauty of fraternity. Today we do not see the full fruit of this process, but with farsightedness, we look to the horizon opening up before us. The Lord will guide us and help us to be a more synodal and more missionary Church, a Church that adores God and serves the women and men of our time, going forth to bring to everyone the consoling joy of the Gospel.”

May February be a time of invitation, celebration, and freedom!


Father Stephen D. Thorne serves as the pastor of Saint Barbara Parish in Wynnefield and co-chair of the Archbishop’s Commission on Racial Healing for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia