Chicagoland

Students celebrate African-American heritage

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
March 7, 2018

Students celebrate African American heritage during annual service

Students from the Academy of St. Benedict the African, St. Ailbe School, St. Philip Neri School and St. Sabina Academy sing in the choir during the 40th Annual African American Heritage Prayer Service on Feb. 23, 2018 at Holy Name Cathedral. Cardinal Cupich presided over the service whose theme was “Kwanzaa: First We Are One in the Spirit.” Students, teachers, administrators and clergy from the archdiocese’s Catholic schools came together in prayer and song to share in honoring and celebrating Black History Month and the rich history of black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Students from the Academy of St. Benedict the African, St. Ailbe School, St. Philip Neri School and St. Sabina Academy sing in the choir during the 40th Annual African American Heritage Prayer Service on Feb. 23, 2018 at Holy Name Cathedral. Cardinal Cupich presided over the service whose theme was “Kwanzaa: First We Are One in the Spirit.” Students, teachers, administrators and clergy from the archdiocese’s Catholic schools came together in prayer and song to share in honoring and celebrating Black History Month and the rich history of black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Greg Sakowicz, rector and pastor of Holy Name Cathedral, welcomes the students. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Students process into the cathedral carrying banners bearing their school names. . (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Students from Marist High School clap during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The choir performs for the congregation. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father David Jones, pastor of St. Benedict the African in Englewood, raises his hand in praise. Jones received the African American Heritage Award during the service on Feb. 23. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Students from Holy Trinity High School sing and clap. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Students from St. John de la Salle High School pray during the service on Feb. 23. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich delivers the homily during the African American Heritage Prayer Service on Feb. 23 at Holy Name Cathedral. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich gives the African American Heritage Award to Father David Jones. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Denise Spells, principal of St. Ethelreda School, addresses the congregation on behalf of Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry, who received the African American Heritage Award along with Jones. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Helen Dumas, principal of St. Sabina Academy, accepts the African American Heritage Award on behalf of Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Marist High School senior Peyton Ashford smiles after receiving the Junior African American Heritage Award from Cardinal Cupich during the archdiocese’s 40th annual African American Heritage Prayer Service on Feb. 23 at Holy Name Cathedral. Ashford is a parishioner at St. Ailbe Parish, serves as a lector and extraordinary minister of Communion and volunteers every day assisting senior citizens at Providence Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Marist High School senior Peyton Ashford smiles after receiving her award. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Dancers from Christ the King Jesuit College Prep form a cross from material during the Archdiocese of Chicago’s 40th Annual African American Heritage Prayer Service on Feb. 23 at Holy Name Cathedral. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Dancers from Christ the King Jesuit College Prep perform during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A student from St. Malachy School reads a prayer of the faithful. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A teacher and students from Leo High School laugh and clap during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Students from Visitation School clap along with the music. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A choir member leads the congregation in song. Students from the Academy of St. Benedict the African, St. Ailbe School, St. Philip Neri School and St. Sabina Academy performed in the choir. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The choir leads the congregation. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Holy Name Cathedral resounded with the voices of 1,200 Catholic school students and chaperones from across the archdiocese as they prayed, sang and danced at the 40th annual African American Heritage Prayer Service Feb. 23.

Cardinal Cupich welcomed the students to the service, which had the theme “Kwanzaa: First We Are One in the Spirit.”

Cardinal Cupich told the students that there are many people who are working and praying and sacrificing for their success, including people they don’t even know. The young people must remember that they are not going it alone, he said.

“One of the things that is so corrosive to our hearts is this feeling that we are on our own in this enterprise of being human,” the cardinal said. 
Instead, people find strength in solidarity with other people, including other people who might be different from them.

To that end, he advised the students to have the curiosity of a young child when they meet people who are different. Instead of being afraid, they must be open to learning, he said.

They also must make an effort to meet people outside of their own “tribes,” and learn to appreciate other cultures and other ways of thinking. Those different cultures create something beautiful when they come together.

“It’s like this wonderful choir,” Cardinal Cupich said, indicating the group that included students from the Academy of St. Benedict the African, St. Ailbe School, St. Philip Neri School and St. Sabina Academy. “Different voices come together in beauty and harmony but remain distinct.”

Then, to know they are fulfilling Jesus’ mandate to love one another, the young people must be willing to forgive and to show mercy.

“That’s the real test,” the cardinal said. “Dig into your hearts and show mercy and forgiveness. God gives us this great ability he has to forgive one another. Use that power.”

Marist High School senior Peyton Ashford also spoke about the role faith plays in her life.

Ashford, who received the Junior African American Heritage Award, is a parishioner at St. Ailbe, serves as a lector and extraordinary minister of Communion, and volunteers every day assisting senior citizens at Providence Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center.

She said that when she signed up for the volunteer program at Marist, she asked to be sent to an elementary school, and she wasn’t thrilled when she found out she would be working with senior citizens.

Now, she said, she regrets being so hesitant. She enjoys the senior citizens’ company as she helps serve lunch, plays cards or bingo with them and listens to their stories.

“My biggest goal is keeping my seniors happy,” said Ashford, who is not sure where she will attend college next year. She intends to study broadcast journalism.

Her parents and grandparents, who accompanied her to the service, said Ashford has always been involved in her parish and school. The youngest of Yolanda and Derrick’s three children, and the youngest of Pamela and John Ashford’s six grandchildren, Peyton has always been outgoing and willing to make her voice heard.

Peyton said she was shocked when she got the news that she would be receiving the award. 

In her witness talk, she told the students to remember that she is still a work in progress — “God hasn’t finished molding me into a masterpiece yet” — but also embraced the responsibility of setting an example for younger children.

“I want to be that role model,” she said.

Bishop Joseph Perry, episcopal vicar for Vicariate VI, and Father David Jones, pastor of St. Benedict the African Parish, also received African American Heritage awards.

Jones told the students that 40 years ago, at the first such service, he was sitting in a pew like they were.

“I hope and believe and pray that it won’t take 40 years for you to do the good work of God so you can be up here,” he said.

Topics:

  • catholic schools

Related Articles

Advertising