ROME -- African-American Catholics have a dynamic history of "uncommon faithfulness" in the church, but it's one that has been generally invisible -- even to other Catholics, a U.S. nun from New Orleans told a Rome audience.
Dominican Sr. Jamie Phelps, director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of New Orleans, explored the U.S. observance of Black History Month in February from a Catholic perspective.
She spoke Feb. 25 at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas of Aquinas, also known as the Angelicum, at a program organized by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.
The U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Miguel Diaz, said black Catholics were a little-known but important segment of American society, and he wanted Rome to hear about it.
Phelps recalled that when she was growing up, people would look puzzled when she and her family showed up at Catholic events and tell her, "You're supposed to be Protestant."
There are about 3 million African-American Catholics in the United States today, she said. They generally identify closely with the teachings of the church, on matters from abortion to concern for the poor.