New Saint Michael’s Trustee discusses being Black and Catholic

February 22, 2024
Caitlin Herz '26

On February 20, the Saint Michael’s community participated in a passionate discussion entitled “Radically Black and Authentically Catholic — A Journey of Faith.” The event was presented by Dr. Ansel Augustine, Director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Augustine shared many of his own personal experiences in the church with the audience in the Farrell Room. Students and Religious Studies faculty attended, along with students from Fr. David Theroux’s course Black Catholicism.

Dr. Ansel Augustine (courtesy photo)

Fr. Theroux introduced Augustine who is the newest member of the Saint Michael’s College Board of Trustees and will join the Bishops Conference on April 2. The event was sponsored by the Edmundite Center for Peace and Justice.

Augustine shared his personal relationship with the Edmundites.

“I want to thank Father David and the Edmundites. I was pretty much raised by them,” Augustine said. “I was not very active with religion back then.”

The Edmundites visited Augustine’s first parish in Louisiana, and guided Augustine to become more in touch with his faith.

Augustine attended Xavier University, a historically Black college. He is on the faculty for the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana, Graduate Theological Foundation, and Loyola University New Orleans’ Institute for Ministry. He also served as a minister for Xavier University’s on-campus church and taught at St. John’s University in New York City. He is an Emmy-nominated producer for the documentary Black Faith Matters. Augustine has worked in ministry for more than 20 years with a special focus on youth, young adult, and multicultural ministries.

Augustine said, “I promote and build intercultural competence within communities.”

He said his deep spirituality and devotion to religion guides him to educate students about Black Catholicism.

Augustine discussed his award-winning book Leveling the Praying Field: Can the Church We Love, Love Us Back? His book discusses race and inequality in the church. He also considered the challenges posed by future generations and their disconnect with the church.

The event was an interactive experience for those in attendance. Augustine asked the audience questions based on Black history in Catholicism.

“How many African popes have there been in the church?” he asked.

The audience held up their guesses on their fingers. Augustine explained that the correct answer was three. There have been three Black popes.

The Q & A format opened the discussion up to everyone, and Augustine’s passion for faith made the presentation very engaging.

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