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How Catholics Can Celebrate Juneteenth

June 19, 1865 marks the day when all enslaved people were officially freed in the United States. This day is known as Juneteenth and became a federal holiday in 2021.

Catholic Social Teaching encourages us to live a holy life by helping to build a just society. Juneteenth is an opportunity for Catholics to learn more about American history and to commemorate a day that impacts our African American brothers and sisters.

Read on to learn how Catholics can celebrate Juneteenth.

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Celebrate Mass at a Black Catholic parish

As Catholics, Mass is what brings us together. No matter where we are in the world, we can follow the Mass together even if it’s not in our native language. Attending Mass at a historically Black parish in your community is a great way Catholics can celebrate Juneteenth.

To find a Black Catholic parish in your neighborhood, visit the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s website or reach out to your local diocese.

Support Black Catholics on the path to sainthood

While there are no canonized African American saints, there are six currently on the path to sainthood. In celebration of Juneteenth, Catholics can learn more about these holy people and support their cause. Black Catholics on the path to sainthood include:

Some ways to support a holy person on the path to sainthood are learning about their life, praying for their cause, and sharing their story with fellow Catholics. You can also watch a documentary on these holy people.

Read the Church’s stance on racism

In 2018, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love” Pastoral Letter Against Racism. It explains the sin of racism and how Catholics can heal their communities with love.

Available in English and Spanish, the letter offers ways we can fight against racism by responding in faith. It states, “As Catholics, we are called to listen and know the stories of our brothers and sisters. We must create opportunities to hear, with open hearts, the tragic stories that are deeply imprinted on the lives of our brothers and sisters, if we are to be moved with empathy to promote justice.”

Read the letter with a group of fellow Catholics and have discussions about how you can help to end racism. Consider joining a local discussion group like MeetUp where you can have these conversations. For information on local Catholic racism discussion groups, contact your diocese.

Embrace entertainment

As “Open Wide Our Hearts” explains, we are called to know the stories of our brothers and sisters. Books, films and documentaries share the history of Black Americans.

There are a variety of ways to learn about Black American history. For Catholics specifically, I would suggest the following:

Visit museums on Black History

Taking a day trip to a Black American museum is another powerful way Catholics can celebrate Juneteenth. There are many museums throughout the country that highlight this history. Take a day trip with family, friends or a church group and share your thoughts after the experience.

Essence Magazine and Tique have a list of museums to consider. For Catholics who live close by and are willing to make the trip, I would prioritize The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom and the resilience of African Americans throughout history. As Catholics, we are called to know the stories of all people to build relationships and understand each other. May what you learn on Juneteenth encourage understanding and comradery with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

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