Br Patrick Winbush, OSB, an African-American monk at Newark Abbey in New Jersey, was ordained to the transitional diaconate on July 9th, the latest step in his unique journey to the priesthood.
Occurring just two days before the feast of St Benedict of Nursia, the founder of the Benedictine Order, the sacrament was administered at St Mary’s Abbey Church in Newark by Bishop Elias Lorenzo, OSB, an auxiliary for the Archdiocese of Newark.
“It was a day that I will never forget,” Winbush told BCM.
“I was surrounded by my family, friends, religious, classmates, parishioners from my home parish, and my community.”
Winbush, a 41-year-old Newark native, was educated at various schools in the area run by religious orders and was a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament-St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church following his conversion in the 8th grade.
He first encountered the Benedictines during his junior year at the former St Patrick High School in Elizabeth, and entered Newark Abbey after his freshman year at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City. (Yes, that Saint Peter’s University. He graduated from the now-famous Jesuit school in 2003.)
He professed final vows as a lay religious brother in the American-Cassinese Benedictine Congregation in 2005, after commencing work in 2001 at St Benedict’s Prep, a majority-Black K-12 school in Newark. There, he assisted with development, chaplaincy, and vocations work beginning in 2006. He also taught religion, and later served as principal of the former St Mary’s Elementary School on the abbey campus from 2015 to 2017.
The subprior of Newark Abbey for the past decade, as well as the current vocations director, Winbush has served in vocational capacities for the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn, and Newark’s suffragan dioceses of Paterson and Metuchen. He was appointed the inaugural chair of the Archdiocese of Newark's Vocation Board for Religious Life in late 2019.
In recent years, he began to reorient his own vocation, transitioning into formation for the priesthood. The academic process will be completed with his graduation from Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange next spring.
Winbush is now set to become a priest next year, and has been a member of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus since completing his formation as a religious brother nearly 17 years ago.
“I am excited about serving as a deacon for a period before my priesthood ordination on May 20th, 2023,” he said.
“I ask for prayers that I may be able to serve well in this new ministry that I have commissioned by God to do.”
Also a member of the National Religious Vocation Conference, Winbush has served on the organization’s Black Religious Committee and was noted last week in the Catholic Press Awards for an interview with the NRVC’s Horizon journal. Published in the spring issue, it covered African-American vocations and merited an honorable mention for coverage of racial inequities.
Concerning his own vocation, Winbush is the only African American ordained to the transitional diaconate so far this year, and the first since (now Father) Carl Gales, SVD last October.
Correction (7/13/22): A previous version of this story incorrectly noted that Winbush has graduated from seminary. He will complete his studies in 2023.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).