St. Augustine Parish in Washington, D.C., has been called the “mother church of black Catholics.” But what really makes this parish special is the community that gathers here.
As one parishioner shares, “St. Augustine Parish is definitely a safe place for me — as a black person, as a woman, as a Catholic.”
Washington, D.C.: Saint Augustine Parish, one of the oldest African-American Catholic parishes in the U.S. Founded in 1858, seven years before slavery was abolished.
Woman singing: I love the Lord, He heard my cry, and pitied every groan. Long as I live, and troubles rise, I’ll hasten to His throne.
(Gospel choir music plays in the background.)
Female parishioner: St. Augustine Parish is definitely a safe place for me — as a black person, as a woman, as a Catholic.
Second female parishioner: I actually moved here from the Netherlands, and I was looking for a Catholic church with soul and a real sense of community, and I stumbled upon St. Augustine on the internet when I saw a sign that said “St. Augustine, mother church of black Catholics.” I’m like, “Wow — who are those people?” So I came here, and what kept me here is the community and just how everybody — they’re really, truly friends. When they do the sign of peace, they’re really coming over, hugging you, shaking your hand, a smile on their face — and that warmth is what has kept me here all these years.
Male parishioner: The first time I was here, I heard prayerful intentions and naming off the names of homeless people in the area. I’d never heard that before, and that resonated to me because, I think, in a world that has all kinds of struggles and difficulties, you want something that’s real.
Priest preaching a homily: Be strong in the Lord, be strong in the mission. Because God’s still on mission. God is still extending His arms. God is still giving His heart and God is still looking for witnesses who will not be deterred.
Priest: The parish — it’s a community in mission. Meaning, it is supposed to be out of focus. It’s not a clubhouse — it’s more like a lighthouse. Think about it: a lighthouse exists for everything but itself. Hopefully, people see the light and even come and check it out.