It was truly a once in a lifetime experience for me as I attended the centennial celebration of the Knights of Peter Claver, held July 31– Aug. 7 in New Orleans.
As a member of the Knights of Peter Claver, Ladies Auxiliary, Sister Thea Bowman, Court 346, it was breathtaking to see 4,000 plus attendees at the centennial Mass that included many cardinals, bishops, and clergy members from all over the United States in the opening procession that seemed never ending. Looking over the congregation was like viewing a sea of people dressed in all white (ladies) or black (men).
The principal celebrant was the Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta. Father Edward Chiffriller, superior general of the Josephite Fathers and Brothers, was the homilist. Concelebrants were Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph J. Perry of Chicago, National Chaplain of the Knights of Peter Claver.
The Noble Order of the Knights of Peter Claver was founded Nov. 7, 1909 in Mobile, Ala., by four priests of the St. Joseph ‘s Society of the Sacred Heart (the Josephite Fathers ) of Baltimore. Although it includes people of all races and cultures, it was founded when blacks were denied participation in other Catholic fraternal orders.
The Ladies ‘ Auxiliary was recognized as a division of the National Council in 1926; the Junior Daughters established in 1930; and the constitution was revised establishing the Junior Knights as a Division of the National Council, effective Oct. 1, 1935.
The Knights of Peter Claver are members of the International Alliance of Catholic Knights, and representatives from 23 countries were present to celebrate this most historic event. It took its name from Peter Claver, a Jesuit priest, “the apostle to the slaves,” who dedicated himself to bringing comfort and saving the souls of the blacks he ministered to in Cartagena. He cared for the sick and the dying in a most unselfish manner, carrying the sick and the dying in his own cloak.
He is believed to have baptized over 300,000 slaves. A third of the million slaves that passed through Cartagena on their way to the plantations and mines in South America wore a medal in memory of Peter Claver. In 1888 he was declared a saint by Pope Leo XIII.
The full day agendas for the convention included daily Mass, morning joint committee sessions, afternoon Knights committee and Ladies committee sessions, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament (all day), United Negro College Fund Dance, Supreme Knight and Supreme Ladies ‘ Gala, Convention Banquet, and Convention Ball.
The Northern District was extremely proud of one of its newest members, established January 2008, Bishop George V. Murry, Court and Council from St. Bartholomew Parish, Camden, and an award was given to this Court for having the most ladies initiated this year.
This convention helped me to know and appreciate this organization in a new way and I thank God for this once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget. I thank God for belonging to this organization that is truly Catholic in purpose and spirit. I thank God through the intercession of St. Peter Claver. I thank God.
Carolyn C. Jenkins is director, Black Catholic Ministry, Diocese of Camden.