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Archdiocese of Chicago Hosts 45th Annual African American Heritage Prayer Service

African American Heritage Awards will be presented to student and adult leaders in Catholic education during the Feb. 24 event at Holy Name Cathedral

Chicago, (Feb. 22, 2023) – The Archdiocese of Chicago will host its 45th annual African American Heritage Prayer Service on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023 at 9:30 a.m. at Holy Name Cathedral, 735 N. State St. (between State and Superior) in Chicago. Rev. David Jones, pastor at St. Benedict the African Parish, Greg Richmond, superintendent of Catholic Schools, and archdiocesan priests and deacons will join hundreds of students from across the archdiocese for this Black History Month celebration. In addition, the archdiocese will welcome Peyton Ashford as a special guest speaker. Ashford is a producer at NewsChannel 9 WSYR in Syracuse, New York. She is a graduate of Marist High School in Chicago and the recipient of its 2018 student leadership award. 

The prayer service brings together students, educators and clergy from Catholic elementary and high schools to share in honoring the rich history of Black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago. More than 100 student leaders will participate in the service as singers, praise dancers, altar servers, lectors and banner bearers.  

The theme of the prayer service this year is: Living Our Faith: Honoring Our Legacy. The event will celebrate the lives and service of six U.S. Black Catholics who are on the road to sainthood: Father Augustus Tolton, Sister Thea Bowman, Mother Mary Lange, Julia Greeley, Mother Henriette Delille, and Pierre Toussaint. They were trailblazers for peace, justice, equality and freedom in the United States. Additionally, they were committed to the work of Catholic education.  

Melissa Link, director of Catholic Mission and Culture for the Archdiocese of Chicago Office of Catholic Schools shared, “Our schools have a long and distinguished history of celebrating the contributions of the diverse populations that make up our Church family. We are excited to join in prayer this month to uplift and affirm the gifts all of us bring to our Catholic community.” 

At the prayer service, African American Heritage Awards will be presented to Rev. Carl Gales, SVD of Our Lady of Africa Parish and Holy Angels School (Chicago) and Earlene Strauder of St. Malachy School (Chicago). Educator awards will be presented to Dr. Mark Nimo of Augustus Tolton Catholic Academy (Chicago) and Terri Jackson of Loyola Academy (Wilmette). Student awards will be presented to Mackenzie Adams of Academy of St. Benedict the African (Chicago) and Yvette Mensah of Loyola Academy (Wilmette).