Catholics — and Black Catholics in particular — have an example in following the Holy Spirit in St. Peter Claver, Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares said at the closing Mass for the Knights of Peter Claver Western District Conference April 28.
The conference drew hundreds of delegates from
Knights of Peter Claver councils and Ladies’ Auxiliary courts throughout the
West Coast and Southwest United States. St. Martin de Porres Council and St.
Josephine Bakhita Court 369, based out of St. Pius X Church in Phoenix, hosted
the conference at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel.
In his homily, Bishop Nevares articulated the
importance of the gifts of the Holy Spirit as we pursue holiness.
“Who knows the gifts of the Holy Spirit?”
Bishop Nevares asked. Several people raised their hands. “Well, half of you
do,” the bishop said, laughing together with the congregation.
Bishop Nevares also spoke of how St. Peter
Claver could be used as a model for how we can use the gifts of the Holy Spirit
to evangelize the world, including those at the margins of society.
St. Peter Claver — 17th century Spanish Jesuit
— left his homeland to be a missionary in the Caribbean, where much of his
ministry was dedicated to the slaves, and even lived in the slave lodgings.
Bishop Nevares noted that the saint — the namesake for the Church’s largest
organization for lay African Americans — baptized thousands of slaves. The
bishop then encouraged the congregation to be brave in evangelizing the world
around us just as St. Claver was.
“We have the example of Peter Claver … to
guide us in our lives,” Bishop Nevares said with a smile.
The Mass — celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday —
was filled with joyful gospel music. As the cantor sung “there’s an army rising
up,” in the final Communion hymn, Bishop Nevares yelled, “Where’s the army?!”
The congregation laughed and rose to its feet in cheers.
The Knights of Peter Claver was founded in
Mobile, Alabama in 1909 by four white Josephite priests and three black laymen as
a ministry to help African American Catholic men grow in faith and fellowship. A
Ladies Auxiliary was established in 1922. Claverites — as they are collectively
known — also have junior divisions for boys and girls, allowing entire families
William Lewis, the Junior Knights Director for
the district, traveled from Las Vegas for the conference and said he
particularly loved that the event allowed his family to serve God together.
“My wife is here, my daughter is a junior [lady],
and I like this group because the whole family can be a part of it…it really
helps bring our family together,” Lewis said.
Past District Deputy Renita Lloyd Smith added that
the conference was a wonderful opportunity for Black Catholics to renew their
faith while building community with others in the organization.
“Black Catholics have a unique way of praising God in the universal Church,”
Smith said. “This conference exemplified the theme ‘One Faith, One Baptism, One
Lord.’ Each day we looked forward to coming together in prayer.
connected and made new friends while improving the prior relationships already
made. Our core values of friendship, unity and Christian charity remain
embedded in my heart and strengthens my faith,” she added. “This conference is
the annual vehicle that reminds us of what matters as Clavers.”