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BCM's most-viewed stories of 2023 (plus a final chance to give this year)

As 2023 comes to a close, we’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish this year. From winning our first Catholic Press and California Ethnic Media Awards to covering some of the biggest stories in the Church and in the world, we are grateful for what the year has brought.

You, our readers, have always been our greatest supporters and you’ve shown special attention to a number of stories this year. We think they’re worth mentioning, so before we ring in the new year, here’s a top 10:

#10: Letter from a Black Catholic post-seminarian

One of two op-eds posted this year from Black Catholics after leaving the seminary, this one came from yours truly, following my departure from the Josephites. It explores some of the emotions one faces in such a scenario, and how the intensity of the moment requires a radical listening to God.

#9: 'Neville Way' street renaming approved in New Orleans

A historic home in New Orleans graces a city street that will soon bear the name of one of the city’s numerous music royalty families. The Neville Brothers, including Aaron, Charles, Cyril, and Art Jr., lived in the stretch on Valence Street. Art’s daughter Arthel helped spearhead the renaming ordinance, which gained the support of the City Council in December.

#8: What's in a name: Black American descendants of slavery and the quest for a distinct ethnic designation

The American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) movement has for years been advocating for a distinct ethnic designation for the millions of Americans whose ancestry can be traced to chattel slavery in the United States. The federal government currently doesn’t recognize any such ethnicity, instead flattening Blackness in each census. This March op-ed from Dr. JohnPatrick Rogers explores the ADOS-led effort to change that.

#7: 'The diocese has been disingenuous': Holy Rosary & St. John Catholic Church facing closure in Columbus

A 125-year-old Black Catholic parish in Columbus, Ohio, fell victim to the diocesan financial crisis in the United States this summer when Bishop Earl Fernandes announced its closure, exacerbated by a broken promise he made earlier in the year. Parishioners have fought the closure, which is yet to result in an official decree from the chancery. The church’s MLK Mass—where the bishop’s controversy first began this year—is scheduled for its 2024 iteration on Jan. 15.

#6: Dr. Trimiko Melancon to become consecrated virgin in New Orleans

The relatively rare vocation of consecrated virginity intersected with the cultural hub of Black Catholicism when a university professor and researcher from New Orleans made her official promises with the Archbishop of New Orleans in December.

#5: Married Black Catholic ordained a priest in Minnesota

Fr Jean-Claude “JC” Duncan was ordained this December after a course of study filling in the gaps, one might say, after his former path as a Methodist minister and father of nine. He converted with his family in 2016 and is now one of some 150 married Western Rite priests in the Catholic Church.

#4: Preserved body of Black Catholic nun and foundress draws hundreds to rural Missouri

Mother Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster, a Black Benedictine nun who left the Oblate Sisters of Providence to found a Traditionalist order and died in 2019, made headlines this spring when her allegedly incorrupt body was discovered by her fellow sisters during an exhumation. She has since been unofficially put forward for sainthood and drawn thousands of pilgrims to her convent.

#3: Racist music starts when you're young—so these three nursery rhymes must go.

We all grew up on nursery rhymes of some sort, usually with no particular knowledge of their origin or significance. Educator and author Sara Chinakwe dissects several here, revealing racist origins and the need for vigilance in what we allow to enter the ears and hearts of children. 

#2: Joseph Strickland was my bishop. Here's why he had to go.

The firebrand former bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, was for more than a decade an outsize voice in the U.S. Church, fomenting a particular brand of tradition and patriotism in his small Texas diocese. His increasingly divisive rhetoric, including against Pope Francis, is thought to have led to his ouster in November, prompting this incisive op-ed from Briana Jansky, a member of his flock.

#1: The three African popes—who very possibly were Black

Upon the death of Pope Benedict XVI in December 2022, minds were whirring amid a unique moment in the Church, following more than a decade with two living popes, a phenomenon not seen in six centuries. The end of that era brought thoughts of the ancient past, in which popes were no more likely to be Italian or German than Middle Eastern or, yes, African. Ralph Moore Jr. here unpacks the history of three popes who may have been Black—and who definitely were noteworthy.

There you have it, the top Black Catholic Messenger stories of 2023—nonprofit media covering all kinds of topics because, at the end of the day, African-American Catholics are everywhere. With your help, BCM will be there too. Before the clock strikes midnight and you transition into 2024, consider making a tax-deductible donation to make the next year of BCM its best year. You won’t regret it.

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Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.