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African-American Josephite seminarian receiving ministry of lector December 17th, Congolese being ordained transitional deacon

An African-American seminarian will soon make his next step toward religious brotherhood with the Josephites—the only religious society dedicated to serving the Black community.

(Society of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart)

Bro. Cursey Calais, SSJ, one of the Josephites’ two African-American seminarians, will be installed as a lector on Friday, December 17th at 4:30pm ET, the society has announced.

Lectorship is the first of the two ministries (formerly minor orders) conferred upon seminarians before ordination to the priesthood.

Calais, a native of Opelousas, La. who is pursuing religious brotherhood, will receive the ministry at the society’s historic St Joseph Seminary in Washington DC alongside three of his Nigerian classmates pursuing the priesthood.

All four are expected to make their third renewal of temporary religious professions next spring.

On December 18th at 10am, Bro. Joseph Kikanda, SSJ, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, will be ordained to the transitional diaconate at St Luke Catholic Church, also in DC.

It will be the first ordination for the society since that of Fr Freddie Kaddu, SSJ in May 2020, held privately due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kikanda made his perpetual profession with the Josephites this March, the last step before ordination for seminarians in religious life. He presently studies at Venerable Fulton Sheen Seminary in Washington DC, where Calais is also a student.

Both the ordination and the lector ceremony will be presided over by the Josephites’ superior general, Bishop John Ricard, SSJ.

The weekend of the two events holds a special significance for the Josephites, who have served African-American parishes, schools, and ministries since their founding as an independent society in 1893.

Their founders were originally members of St. Joseph's Missionary Society of Mill Hill (aka the Mill Hill Missionaries), a congregation from England which sent members stateside to serve African Americans in 1871. Twenty years later, their own Charles Uncles became the first African American ordained to the Catholic priesthood on US soil.

December 19th this year will mark the 130th anniversary of that event, which was also the first ordination of a Black man educated in an American seminary. (The previous four African-American priests—the three Healy brothers and Venerable Augustus Tolton—were all educated and ordained in Europe due to Blacks being barred from US seminaries).

Uncles would go on to become the only Black co-founder of the Josephites, joining four White priests.

Today, the Josephites have arguably the highest concentration of Black seminarians anywhere in the country, with 13 Africans and two Americans currently in formation in DC.

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).

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