Looking back but not going back
Chicago's oldest African-American parish celebrates culture, history and each other's talents
St. Elizabeth, Chicago’s oldest Black Catholic Parish and second oldest consecrated church in the archdiocese, concluded a month-long celebration of Black history on Feb. 26.
During the sermon at the 10:30 a.m. Mass that day, St. Elizabeth pastor Fr. Richard Andrus, SVD, reminded the parishioners to look back and see how God has been active in the past.
"Filling our foremothers and forefathers with spiritual strength and inner determination, God made ways for our ancestors to hold on and not give up in the face of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and the march for civil rights—ensuring them that one day, they would gain the freedom that is a guaranteed, God-given right of every American," he said.
"By looking back, we realize what it took to get to where we are today," he said. "Yet, we cannot look back too long. We must also see how God is still making a way for us now. While we still have a long way to go before we win the total freedom we are guaranteed, we also must join together in celebrating our achievements, accomplishments and victories lest we lose hope. God is with us right now, right here."
He reminded parishioners that because God is with us, we must make the best use of every opportunity for our growth and restoration while still pressing on against all forms of oppression, evil and racism that craftily mask their faces in our communities still today.
"Finally, remember that as hard as life sometimes is, we must never lose sight of the fact that God has promised a glorious future for those, empowered by faith, press on, working and sacrificing together for a world of justice and freedom for all people," he said. "It will happen if we are each doing our best to make our families, communities, indeed, our portion of the world a little better because we have stood up for what is right and godly."
The celebration continued with staged performances in the church hall. The program included poetry, song, praise dance and speeches that led up to a climatic performance of an original stage play by parishioner Edith Lane, called "Apt 2G-2G. (Apartment ToGoToGod)."
Reflecting on the entire celebration, Lane said, "When I think of our 2012 Black History Celebration, the word ‘transformation’ comes to mind. Collectively, we wove a tapestry of praise, prayer music, dance, and words. The words flushed with colorful emotions expressing discouragement and hope, fear and promise, and finally faith and completion. It was not an afternoon of entertainment but rather a day of celebration filled with extraordinary bonding and love."
Fr. Andrus praised Lane, who is a producer, director and actress. "Ms. Lane has an exceptional gift and for calling on and calling out the gifts and talents of so many others from youth to seniors," he exclaimed.
"Throughout the day, one could not help but realize the wonder working power, beauty and glory of God, so clearly present within our parish as seen in the love, talent, spirit, hard work and commitment of so many parishioners bringing to light what God is doing right now in St. Elizabeth’s," he said.
"Through the various art forms, history was recalled, the present was celebrated and our future became a little more focused," he remarked. "Through our ties in our deeply rooted Catholic faith, fellowship, friendship and food, we ended the month a little stronger in mind and spirit—wiser and better."
To watch a video that highlights the performances, click here
Article posted: April 2, 2012