Skip to content

Fr James "Jim" Goode, OFM, legendary Black Catholic preacher-activist, dies at 81

A lauded Black priest, pastor, and revivalist—integral to the development of the Black Catholic Movement—has passed away after a prolonged illness.

Fr James "Jim" Goode, OFM in 2009.

Fr James “Jim” Goode, OFM, an internationally-known Black Catholic revivalist and activist, passed away on Friday morning at Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home in New York City. He was 81 years old.

He was reported to have been gravely ill in January, but no specific cause of death has been announced as of Monday afternoon. His religious jurisdiction, the Franciscans’ Province of the Immaculate Conception, posted a tribute to his life and legacy on the day of his passing.

“We are sorry to inform you that our brother… passed to eternal life this morning,” the announcement reads.

“He is best remembered for his many years of service to the African-American community.”

Born in Roanoke, Virginia in 1940, Goode became a fixture of African-American Catholic culture after his ordination to the priesthood in 1972—hot on the heels of the beginnings of the Black Catholic Movement, which would bring Black spirituality more fully into the Black Catholic community.

Goode himself played a major role in that process, integrating the Black preaching idiom into his homiletic style and reportedly participating in the first-ever Black Catholic “revival” in the US, in Chicago in 1974.

He would later become known as the “Dean” of Black Catholic preachers and evangelists, and is said to have preached over 300 major events during his lifetime.

Goode was also well known for founding in 1989 the National Day of Prayer for the African-American Family, a yearly event held on the first Sunday of February, during Black History Month.

It is recognized and celebrated in Black Catholic communities around the country, and was accompanied by personal video messages from Goode beginning in 2008. Last year, the event was spearheaded by the Society of the Divine Word’s Bowman-Francis Ministry, and this year by the National Black Catholic Congress.

The event was also connected to two other ministries founded by Goode, including the Solid Ground Ministry—which closed upon his retirement last year—and the National Black Catholic Apostolate for Life, founded in 2002.

Goode’s work in the community for whole-life causes was celebrated both in and outside the Church. He was honored on the floor of the US House of Representatives in 2001 for his history-making cultural efforts, his ministry in San Francisco during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and his service in various civic positions—including the NYC school board, the San Francisco Housing Authority, and the city’s task forces on drug addiction as well as youth and family issues.

Rep. Edolphus Towns of New York, who organized that historic event, also noted that Goode once joined Rev. Jesse Jackson to preach at a “Black American Voices in Rome” event held in the Vatican City.

“By God's grace and mercy and through [Goode's] gift of preaching and healing, thousands have come home to the Catholic faith,” Towns said.

“His motto: ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, and no matter how hard the task or how difficult the moment, I am ready to go in your name’.”

Goode preaching a Black History Month Mass in New York City in 2000. (Catholic New York)

Goode also served a term as president of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus (NBCCC) and was a regular participant (and preacher) at the Black Catholic Joint Conference—a yearly gathering of Black priests, women religious, deacons and their wives, and seminarians.

“Goode has a dedicated record of activism, from holding a Black Catholic prayer march for jobs in front of the White House to the 1st Annual AIDS Summit for Black Catholics held in Brooklyn, as well as fair housing and drug abuse intervention activities,” added Leon Dixon, vice president for inclusion and human dignity at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

“[These] altogether have earned him two Congressional Record Citations and the NBCCC Brother Joseph Davis Lifetime Achievement Award (1996 and 2002).”

Goode served in San Francisco as pastor of St Paul of the Shipwreck Catholic Church, one of the few Black parishes in the archdiocese, and in Brooklyn at Our Lady of Charity Catholic Church, where he was the founding pastor.

Goode (left) administering Communion at New York's Black History Month Mass in 2014, alongside Bishop J. Terry Steib, SVD of the Diocese of Memphis. (Catholic New York)

“We give thanks to God for his life and his legacy,” said Shaniqua Wilson, a New York-based Black Catholic artist and organizer, in a social media post announcing Goode’s passing.

“He was the architect of homiletics for the Black [Catholic] Church.”

Wilson also noted that Goode was a fourth-degree Knight of Peter Claver, the nation’s most historic Black Catholic fraternal order. His KPC council, #229 in New York, was named in his honor.

The Diocese of Brooklyn, which has lost a number of preeminent Black Catholic clergymen in recent months, announced Goode’s funeral details through its Black Catholic office—in which Goode once served as founding chairman.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11am ET on Saturday, March 12th at St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manhattan, the home of the local Franciscan motherhouse.

The viewing will take place one hour beforehand, and interment will occur at a later date in Roanoke.

(Diocese of Brooklyn/Facebook)

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).

Want to support our work? You have options.

a.) click to give on Donorbox

b.) click to give on Facebook