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Our readers asked:

Do you have to be a certain race in order to convert to Catholicism?

Rachel Bundang Answers:

Question:  I am an African-American, and I was wondering whether it matters what race you are in order to be Catholic. Do you have to be a certain race in order to convert to Catholicism?

Absolutely anyone may become a Catholic convert!  I am sure you have heard of the apostle Paul’s take on this (Galatians 3:28), so it is worth remembering that such differences don’t matter when entering the Christian life.

What I suspect you are asking is whether you will be welcome in your local church, and what the experience of African-American Catholics overall has been over time. True, the Catholic Church, especially in North America, has been very much shaped by the legacies of different European immigrant groups for the last 200+ years.  And by the history and numbers, African American Catholics have not been a large part of U.S. religious presence.  But the gifts they have brought to the U.S. church—from starting and running religious orders, to evangelization and liturgy, from vocations to social justice work and theologizing—have been vital and innumerable.  You would be most welcome to join that stream.  For a longer perspective, you may wish to look at writings by African-American Catholic scholars such as M. Shawn Copeland and Jamie T. Phelps.

P.S.—November is Black Catholic History Month.

The Author : Rachel Bundang
Rachel Bundang is a writer and doctoral student in theology and ethics in New York City.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Valerie Lewis-Mosley

    The Black Catholic Experience is diversed and is a spirituality that is a part of the universality of the Church there are in certains geographical areas Churches with large Black Catholic Populations yet the Church is a universal Church and according to the Invitation of its founder Jesus Christ all are welcomed to the banquet table just choose your seat and sit down,
    There is an RCIA process Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults that you must udergo and you are always welcomed to call any parish an asked to attend even if it is just as an inquiry.
    Check out the website for the National Black Catholic Congress to get some insight of the spirituality of the laity and clergy
    If you are in the New York City area contact the Office of Black Catholic Ministries same if you are in New Jersey or any other large urban community.

  • Steve

    There have been three African popes.

    * Pope Victor I (189 to 199)
    * Pope Miltiades (310/311 to 314)
    * Pope Gelasius I (492 to 496)

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