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Embassy Guest Describes the African-American Experience

Embassy Guest Describes the African-American Catholic Experience

woman speaking before a microphone (State Department photo)

Sister Jamie Phelps, O.P.

February 28, 2011 – To commemorate African-American History Month, the Embassy sponsored a visit to Rome by Sister Jamie Phelps, O.P., an Adrian Dominican religious and the director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Sister Phelps spoke about diverse African-American communities in cities such as New Orleans, Baltimore and Chicago, and their experience as a minority group not just in the United States, but also as a minority within the global Catholic Church.

In an interview with Vatican Radio -- which aired on Friday, January 25th -- Sister Phelps shared her views on the universal appeal of the Catholic Church and its ability to resonate with people of every cultural background. She also described how the identity of black American Catholics had changed over time, giving cultural, historical, and religious examples of that evolution.

Later Friday afternoon, Sister Phelps also spoke with a group of university students, international diplomats, religious and lay persons, and media representatives during a presentation at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. The participants discussed practical issues such as finding means to combat racism against people of African descent in society and in their places of worship.

During her visit, Sister Phelps also visited the Lay Centre, a Rome-based organization that supports the formation and development of students at the Vatican’s Pontifical Universities. She guided discussions over dinner about Black History Month and African-American Catholics.

For more photos on Facebook. For Sister Phelps’ full interview on Vatican Radio.