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

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.


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