When Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development issued a call to develop new affordable homes for Sandtown, St. Peter Claver was there to answer. St. Peter Claver became an integral part of Project Nehemiah, which was named to give the community revitalization a biblical context, relating it to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and restoration of Israel under the supervision of Nehemiah. The St. Peter Claver Evangelization Team, under the able leadership of longtime parishioner Pat Nolan, has visited each home in the new subdivisions and provided residents with a welcome kit consisting of spiritual material and a St. Peter Claver Mass schedule.
Mary Griffith, a parishioner who has lived in her home for several years, says, “It is so nice to see the community come alive again.”
The Josephites in recent years have started a program to recruit priests from Nigeria. In 2001, the Josephites in conjunction with the Missionary Society of St. Paul opened up a seminary in Nigeria. In the 120th anniversary year of St. Peter Claver’s canonization and the 120th anniversary of the church that bears his name, three Nigerian men made their First Temporary Profession in the Josephite order.
I made a pilgrimage to Nigeria to attend the opening of the Josephite seminary in Nigeria, and I was happy to reunite with my friend Anthony Supo Akingbade (mentioned in last week’s column). After we exchanged pictures of family members, we had a long talk about the spiritual journey he had helped me to start all those years ago at midnight Mass.
If my Nigerian friend Supo were to come and celebrate the 120th anniversary with St. Peter Claver, he would be in for a real treat.
The parish activities for the celebration begin at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 5, 2008, with an evening of dinner and dancing at the Black and White Ball. On Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008, at 11:30 a.m., the parish family will gather for Mass. Following the Mass, there will be a reception for all in the parish hall, which will feature a display of parish memorabilia.
Closing out the celebration will be a day of prayerful reflection for the entire parish family and friends, young and seasoned. Sister M. Reginald Gerdes, O.S.P., who serves as historian and archivist for her community, will share from her stored memory bank a wealth of information about African-American Catholic history.
In closing, I say to the Josephites, thank you for your 120 years of dedicated service which I have witnessed firsthand. To the parishioners of St. Peter Claver, I pray that we will build upon the 120-year legacy of so many great ancestors who made their mark on the church and the community of Sandtown. And finally to Supo Akingbade, thank you, my friend, for introducing me to the faith of our fathers and mothers that live still, and which has been more than able to sustain me for the past 36 years and will sustain us for the years to come.
Willard Witherspoon is a parishioner of St. Peter Claver.