Diocese of Arlington's Black Catholic Ministry and Office of Multicultural Ministries
On November 5, 2023 The Diocese of Arlington's Black Catholic Ministry and Office of Multicultural Ministries hosted the annual Black Catholic History Month Mass. This year, it was held at St. Thomas a Becket Catholic Church in Reston, with Bishop Burbidge as the main celebrant. The Mass is very popular with Black Catholics across the diocese, however this Mass, held during the typical Mass time at the host parish, introduced a new love and appreciation of Black Catholic spiritually to all in attendance, regardless of cultural background. The Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary were prominent in the front of the church, having served as Honor Guard for the bishop as he processed down the aisle. Featuring the diocese's Cameroonian Choir, the Mass was also well attended by many from the African Diaspora of Arlington. Parishioners and visitors raved about the music, citing it as one of the best Black Catholic History Month Masses in years!
The altar was also a wonderful testament to diversity, two African priests surprised us, attending to con-celebrate the Mass, and assisting at the Mass as an altar server was Ricky Malebranche, currently the only African American seminarian in the Arlington Diocese. We hope his witness inspired many present to consider the vocation to the priesthood.
Following the Mass, the Knights of Columbus at St. Thomas a Becket hosted a huge pancake reception, and everyone was thrilled to have a hearty and warm breakfast on the chilly November day. At the reception, images of the Black Catholic Saints-to-Be were displayed and admired, those attending were welcome to take home prayer cards featuring these holy individuals. Bishop Burbidge greeted everyone, and was especially touched with a Cameroonian family presented him a cloth banner featuring the saints to be. It was beautiful to see the young children be so excited to share these images with their bishop, a testament to how truly inspiring inclusion in the great Communion of the Saints is to little ones.