Black Churches in America
Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library, Shades of L.A. Collection.
Like their white counterparts, black Catholics were a small minority in the United States until the mid-nineteenth century. Catholicism also spread slowly among African Americans. Catholic orders such as the Ursulines and the Jesuits held slaves well into the nineteenth century, the U. S. Catholic Church was slow to condemn slavery, and American bishops did not proselytize to freedmen and women after the Civil War nearly as enthusiastically as their Protestant counterparts. Nevertheless, immigrants from Haiti and elsewhere ensured that Catholicism did take root and grow within the African American community. Three brothers — Frances Augustine Healy, Alexander Sherwood Healy, and Patrick Francis Healy — were ordained as priests in 1854, 1858, and 1864, respectively, and rose prominently within the Church. In addition, in 1831 Pope Gregory XVI recognized Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange's Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first black order of nuns established in the Catholic Church. Other orders, such as the Sisters of the Holy Family and the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary, were to follow. This photograph shows Sister Suzette Jacuqes, c. 1890.