Aleteia: Capuchin priest who fought racism on way to canonization

Aleteia: Capuchin priest who fought racism on way to canonization

January 21, 2020 0 By BLACKCATHOLIC

Reading this great piece from Aletetia I found out about a Capuchin priest who ministered and advocated for Black people during the early 20th century: Fr. Stephen Eckert. He was born on Apr 38, 1869 in Dublin, Ontario, Canada.

Here are some excerpts below:

“Born in Canada, Fr. Stephen Eckert joined the Capuchin order, was ordained in 1896 and sent to New York for his first assignment. While there he fell in love with African Americans and felt a desire to minister to their spiritual needs, something that was rarely heard of in America at the time.”

So, it appears that Fr. Eckert was ordained a year before Ven. Fr. Augustus Tolton (first recognized Black American priest in U.S. history) died in Chicago. But for a moment two of the Church’s great pastors to Black Catholics were shared the same priesthood together on the same American soil, one Black and the other White. During this historical time period – this is important to note.

“He was convinced that God was calling him to this apostolate and wrote to his superior in 1903.

“I humbly ask you for the privilege of devoting my life to missionary work alone, in conformity with God’s holy will. I must point out that since last year I have been thinking of going south to work with the Blacks; so if you think that this might redound to the greater glory of God, I would be glad to do so…”

It is said that he was one of the first Catholic priests to dedicate all of his energy to the service of “the colored race” in the United States.

He and Tolton both.

Furthermore, he would say “To do something for the Blacks we must first convert the Whites to their cause.”

He died in Milwaukee, WI on February 16, 1923 after contracting pneumonia. He is buried there at Saint Benedict the Moore Catholic Church. His cause for sainthood is ongoing; he was declared a Servant of God in 1952.

He is someone I should definitely keep in mind to learn more about.

Read the rest about Fr. Stephen Eckert in the Aleteia article here.

His gravesite and more info here.

Cover image: Fr. Stephen Eckert (Presumably in Public Domain.