The true substance of life: a Black History Month reflection

As we celebrate Black History we would like to give greater visibility to lesser-known black pioneers who were critical in defining and shaping American culture, but don’t usually get the public recognition they so deserve.

Born in 1858 in North Carolina to her enslaved mother, Hannah Stanley Haywood, and her white slaveholder, Anna Julia Cooper spent her lifetime of over a century redefining the limitations and opportunities for women of color in a society set up for their disempowerment and subjugation. A distinguished scholar and educator, Cooper saw the status and agency of black women as central to the equality and progress of the nation. She famously wrote in her 1892 book A Voice from the South, ―only the BLACK WOMAN can say when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.‖ She fought tirelessly throughout her life to re-center and uplift the voice of black women in pursuit of a more just society for everyone.

Cooper‘s political action began at age nine in St. Augustine‘s Normal School and Collegiate Institute, where she protested the preferential treatment given to men as candidates for the ministry and petitioned to take classes traditionally administered only to boys. She continued this trend at Oberlin College, where she declined the inferior ―ladies course‖ in favor of the ―gentleman‘s course.‖ Cooper received her B.A. in 1884, and then returned to earn an M.A. in mathematics in 1887.

After attaining her degree, Cooper moved to Washington, DC and was recruited to work at Washington Colored High School, or M Street School, the only all-black school in DC.

Cooper‘s retirement from M Street School in 1930 was by no means the end of her political activism. The same year she retired, she accepted the position of president at Frelinghuysen University, a school founded to provide classes for DC residents lacking access to higher education. Cooper worked for Frelinghuysen for twenty years, first as president and then as registrar, and left the school only a decade before she passed away in 1964 at the age of 105.

While notable for her long life span, Cooper is most remarkable for the amount and significance of her accomplishments over the course of her lifetime Cooper made no concessions in her fight; believing ―a cause is not worthier than its weakest elements,‖ she decried movements advocating for women‘s rights and racial justice for ignoring black women who were victims of both oppressions. Cooper was critical of black men for hailing opportunities that were not open to black women as markers of racial progress, and openly confronted leaders of the women‘s movement for allowing the racism within it to remain unchecked. She recognized that neither movement could achieve its cause while still being divided by race or gender.

“The colored woman feels that woman’s cause is one and universal; and that not till the image of God, whether in parian or ebony, is sacred and inviolable; not till race, color, sex, and condition are seen as the accidents, and not the substance of life; not till the universal title of humanity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is conceded to be inalienable to all; not till then is woman’s lesson taught and woman’s cause won–not the white woman’s, nor the black woman’s, nor the red woman’s, but the cause of every man and of every woman who has writhed silently under a mighty wrong. Woman’s wrongs are thus indissolubly linked with all undefended woe, and the acquirement of her “rights” will mean the final triumph of all right over might, the supremacy of the moral forces of reason, and justice, and love in the government of the nations of earth.” –Anna Julia Cooper

Keep Up the Good Work

A well-worn $1 bill and a similarly distressed $20 bill arrived at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired. As they moved along the conveyor belt to be burned, they struck up a conversation.

The $20 bill reminisced about its travels all over the country. “I’ve had a pretty good life,” the $20 proclaimed. “Why I’ve been to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the finest restaurants in New York, performances on Broadway, and even a cruise to the Caribbean.”

“Wow!” said the $1 bill. “You’ve really had an exciting life!”

“So tell me,” says the$20, “where have you been throughout your lifetime?”

The $1 replies, “Oh, I’ve been to the Methodist church, the Baptist church, the Catholic church ….”

The t$20 bill interrupts, “What’s a church?”

This joke obviously does not apply to Assumption! We see plenty of $20 bills and checks. Thank you again for your generosity, and PLEASE KEEP IT UP.

Mass of Christian Burial: Thomas

Assumption Church will host the Mass of Christian Burial for Mr. Joseph P. Thomas. He was a DET/SGT with MPD-7D when he retired in 2013.

Friends and family are invited to the viewing on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016 from 6-8 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 from 9-11 a.m. followed by the Funeral Mass on Saturday at 11 a.m.

We offer our condolences to the Thomas family as we honor the life of this retired police officer.

10 Reflections for Advent

I recently shared this in the bulletin, but these are great tips from Our Sunday Visitor.  I hope you’ll pause during this busy holiday season and consider the 2nd coming of Christ.

-Fr Greg

10 Tips for Reflection at Advent

  • Reflect on Advent as a time of waiting. The idea of waiting is not popular in our culture of instant gratification, but it creates in us a new kind of self-discipline that helps us to appreciate the present moment and look to the future with peaceful anticipation.
  • Turn your breathing into a prayer. Take a few deep breaths throughout the day and imagine that God’s love is flowing through you to every part of your body. As you exhale, let go of tension, worry and anything else that is not of God.
  • Long for the Lord. Make it a habit of silently praying, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
  • Unite with Mary. Set aside time once a day to join Our Lady in praying the Canticle of Mary (see Lk 1:46-55).
  • Do something nice for someone every day. It might be an encouraging word, a phone call, a note of appreciation or a little act of kindness.
  • Get rid of grudges. Use Advent as an opportunity to let go of any anger or resentment that you might be holding onto.
  • Pray for patience. If you find yourself becoming anxious or upset, ask the Lord for the gift of patience. Then make a conscious effort to be a more patient person.
  • Offer up something painful or difficult in your life. The best way to transform trials and tensions is to turn them into a prayer.
  • Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Attend your parish penance service and take advantage of the opportunity to cleanse your soul in preparation for the coming of Jesus.
  • Think about the special gifts and talents God has given you. How are you using these gifts?

 -Lorene Hanley Duquin

Call to Veto Death With Dignity Act in D.C.

Earlier this week, the D.C. City Council passed the so-called Death with Dignity Act (B21-38), which would legalize assisted suicide in the District of Columbia. Mayor Muriel Bowser must now review the legislation and either sign it into law or veto it.

Our Catholic faith teaches us that assisted suicide gravely violates the sacred value of all human life. This bill imperils residents in our communities, particularly those who are sick, elderly, disabled, and uninsured. It allows for coercion and abuse including third-parties administering the lethal drugs to patients who are incapacitated or who may not be aware of a request for assisted suicide. It also undermines the medical profession’s healing mission.

There is still time for us to add our voices to the loud call for a veto. The DC Catholic Conference is part of the NoDCSuicide coalition; please consider going to the noDCsuicide.org website, signing their petition calling for a veto of the bill or calling Mayor Bowser’s office to urge a veto at: (202) 727-2643. Thank you.

Christ the King

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – November 20th

This Sunday marks the close of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, a year spent celebrating the wondrous mercy of God and the many ways we share his mercy with those around us. At the beginning of this Jubilee Year, Pope Francis wrote: “Mercy is a key word that indicates God’s action towards us. He does not limit himself merely to affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible. Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviours that are shown in daily living. The mercy of God is his loving concern for each one of us. … This is the path which the merciful love of Christians must also travel. As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other.” Though this Jubilee year is ending, the need for mercy in our world is not. Carry these words and the graces of this past year forward through the Christian witness of your life. Be merciful to each other. Continue to celebrate God’s mercy with us at mercy.adw.org and catholiccharitiesdc.org.

Black Catholic History Month Part 1

In celebration of Black Catholic History Month…

National Black Catholic History Month serves as a reminder of something we should keep in mind throughout the year: at its best, ours is a diverse and welcoming church, and there is much to be learned from one another, if only we would make the effort:

Moses the Black, sometimes called the Ethiopian, was a slave of a government official in Egypt who dismissed him for theft and suspected murder. He became the leader of a gang of bandits who roamed the Nile Valley spreading terror and violence. On one occasion, a barking dog prevented Moses from carrying out a robbery, so he swore vengeance on the owner. Weapons in his mouth, Moses swam the river toward the owner’s hut. The owner, again alerted, hid, and the frustrated Moses took some of his sheep to slaughter.

Attempting to hide from local authorities, he took shelter with some monks in a colony in the desert of Scete, near Alexandria. The dedication of their lives, as well as their peace and contentment, influenced Moses deeply. He soon gave up his old way of life and joined the monastic community at Scete.

Moses had a difficult time adjusting to regular discipline. His flair for adventure remained with him. Once he was attacked by a group of robbers in his desert cell, Moses fought back, overpowered the intruders, and dragged them to the chapel where the monks were praying. He told the brothers that he did not think it was Christian to hurt the robbers and asked what he should do with them. The overwhelmed robbers repented, were converted, and themselves joined the community.

After some time, Moses became the spiritual leader of a colony of hermits in the desert. After a while had was ordained a priest. At about the age of 75, word came that a group of renegades planned to attack the colony. The brothers wanted to defend themselves, but Moses forbade it. He told them to retreat, rather than take up weapons. He and seven others remained behind and greeted the invaders with open arms, but all eight were martyred by the bandits.

Moses the Black is honored as an apostle of non-violence. Moses the Black lived a rather dissolute life in his younger years, had a conversion experience in which he heard and heeded the call of God, was a leader of a religious community and known as a man of peace spending much of his ministry calling people to reconciliation and forgiveness by word and example.

Pre-Election Day of Reflection

The Msgr. Thomas Wells Society is proud to present a timely and important “Pre-Election Day of Reflection” at Sacred Heart Church in Bowie on Saturday October 29, 2016. This event kicks off with Mass at 9:30 a.m. and will feature spirited talks centered on Msgr. Wells’ hallmarks – Joyful Evangelization, Fearlessness in the Marketplace, Modern-day Martyrdom and Devotion to the Eucharist. The heralded featured speakers will be Fr. Larry Swink, Fr. Dan Leary, Fr. Dave Wells and Fr. Greg Shaffer. The beloved Msgr. Wells, who was murdered in his rectory 16 years ago, began his ministry at Sacred Heart – where his body is now laid to rest. The day will include lunch, confessions and hearty fellowship. Everyone 18-and-over is welcome. Please call Kevin Wells at 240-381-3533 or email kvnjwlls@nullgmail.com for more information. The cost is $20. Payment can be handled through PayPal by following this link: paypal.me/KEVINJWELLS or a check can be made payable to the Msgr. Thomas Wells Society and mailed to 1641 Isabella Court Millersville, MD 21108.

Centennial Celebration Gallery

On Sunday, August 14, the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Washington, D.C. celebrated it’s 100th year with a Centennial Mass and luncheon.  Bishop Wuerl was in attendance and parishioners from throughout the years came to honor the history and faithfulness of this parish home.  Enjoy these images from the event.

Congratulations on 100 Years!

Beloved parishioners,

Congratulations on your 100th anniversary!  I am so happy for you, and proud of you as your spiritual father.  When we kicked off our jubilee celebration last August, I wrote to you about the spiritual significance of our anniversary:

It is a year of particular celebration and graces that originated in Sacred Scripture and has been carried through Sacred Tradition: “The notion of a  ‘jubilee’ year is rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures that celebrated an outpouring  of God’s mercy and forgiveness in a special way every 50 years, as reflected  in the Book of Leviticus (25:8-13)…

The notion of a special jubilee year celebrating God’s forgiveness and mercy was taken over by Christians, and history records the first Christian jubilee year in 1300, called by Pope Boniface VIII. Approximately every 50 to 25 years since that time, the Church has celebrated these special ‘Holy Years’ to mark the outpouring of God’s grace and mercy.

God wants to bless us abundantly during our Jubilee year! Through the intercession of our patroness, Our Lady of the Assumption, may we be open as individuals and as a parish to all the graces, indulgences, and blessings of the Lord in this centennial Year of Jubilee.

Through the intercession of our Lady, the Lord has indeed bestowed many special blessings and graces upon us throughout this year (the Year of Mercy, too).  We have celebrated monthly Community Sundays, Healing Masses, and Revival Nights, welcomed many inspiring speakers, reinstituted Children’s Masses, offered spiritual nourishment weekly to guests of the Outreach Center in addition to physical nourishment, prepared to evangelize our neighborhood through street evangelization, and provided more consistent and fruitful ministry to the sick, homebound, and bereaved.  Phew, God has been busy through us! All of these (and more) are signs of God’s abundant graces during our jubilee.  Hopefully, we have honored the memory and inspiring tradition of our parish ancestors, and that that will continue for the next 100 years.

Below is a beautiful poem by Judy Crowe for a church celebrating a significant anniversary.  Enjoy this special time in the history of our parish!

May you know the peace of Christ,
Fr Greg

“Happiness grows as each year passes And trials test the love that will grow.  Pleasures of the heart remain a treasure, Perhaps a memory of some time ago.  Yesterday’s joys are your heart’s treasure And love remains to guard the store.  Now and then we are reminded, It is love (the key) that unlocks the door.  Vivid are the scenes of days gone by, Each thought, a page from the past,  Reminding us that God guides our path and Yielding to His will, our love will last.” by Judy Crowe