Longtime Mount Airy resident Bill Bradley is the new director of the Office for Black Catholics.
The Northwest Philadelphia husband and father is as a deacon at the St. Raymond of Penafort Church in Mount Airy. He made his first public appearance as the administrator for African-American Catholics at the 49th Annual St. Martin de Porres Mass at the Cathedral Basilica on Sunday, Nov. 6.
On hand for the event that commemorates the canonization of the first person of color in the Americas were bus and van loads of local African American parishioners. There was a full bus from Bradley’s home church. There were also representatives from the St. Athanasius and St. Benedict churches in West Oak Lane.
Among the African American priests who were present were Monsignor David H. Benz, pastor of the St. Therese Church in Mount Airy; the Rev. Rayford Emmons, the first Black priest ordained to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia; and the Rev. Stephen D. Thorne, pastor of the Martin de Porres Church in North Philadelphia. Thorne was the most recent director of the Office for Black Catholics and pastor of St. Therese Church.
In his remarks Bradley said that he “stood in awe” as he spoke for the first time at the St. Martin de Porres Mass. He singled out the seven previous directors of the office he now holds, including Thorne. He also thanked the St. Martin de Porres parish, the ushers from St. Cyprian’s parish and Roman Catholic High School, and the sponsorship of the Martin de Porres Foundation for making Sunday afternoon’s Mass a success.
Eugene and Louise Frasier from St. Athanasius Church in the West Oak Lane said that their parish brought the largest contingency of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Peter Claver to Sunday’s Mass. Louise Frasier, who was dressed in the group’s signature white, said that the Junior Daughters and Knights from her parish also participated in the Mass’s procession. These are century old African American organizations.
“It was a great celebration,” said Bridget Fanning. “This was my first time seeing the new archbishop (the Rev. Charles J. Chaput) I liked how he said that even though we may have gifts of music, just like the choir who sang today, the real gifts are the people. It’s really all the different people who make this a church.”
Jennifer Davis concurred. She added that what stood out to her was when the archbishop said that all are ordered to be saints. “It was very humbling to hear that even though we are here to celebrate a canonized saint, that we are called to be saints,” Davis said.
Eugene and Louise Frasier from St. Athanasius parish in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia said that their parish brought the largest contingency of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Peter Claver to Sunday’s Mass. Louise Frasier, who was dressed in the group’s signature white, said that the Junior Daughters and Knights from her parish also participated in the Mass’s procession.
Among the highlight were the interpretation of the communion hymn “Open My Eyes Lord” sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir along with local vocalists. They performed under the direction of Craig Collier with Kevin Belton on piano. Angela Taylor was the cantor.
“I really enjoyed this Mass,” said Charlene Pryor, a member of the St. Martin de Porres parish in North Philadelphia. “I feel like I’m home. I’m just grateful that St. Martin de Porres was recognized so beautifully today because that is my home parish.”