Nurturing African American vocations

Students at St. Francis International School in Silver Spring, Md., dress as saints and study "heroes and holy people" every year.


African American girls will soon have the chance to see nuns who look like them as part of National Catholic Sisters Week. Middle-school girls from St. Francis International School in Silver Spring, Md., will visit Mount Providence Convent on March 14 to spend time with the Oblate Sisters of Providence. The trip is being funded by a mini-grant from National Catholic Sisters Week and coordinated by religious teacher Dr. Kirk Gaddy.

St. Francis International School is a diverse school, where African Americans make up 42 percent of the study body, representing many African and Caribbean countries as well as Black Americans.

“It’s important for African American girls and other girls of color to see sisters that look like them so that, if they feel they might be called to religious life, they will believe they can achieve the vocation,” Dr. Gaddy said.

More broadly, Dr. Gaddy said he hopes the trip helps students grow in their faith, which is already robust. “St. Francis students are vibrant and are eager to learn and deepen their spirituality.”

During their visit to Mount Providence Convent, the motherhouse located in Halethorpe, Md., students will have the opportunity to pray and talk with a myriad of sisters – from novices to those who have been professed for more than half a century. The OSPs have historically been a multi-cultural community, with members hailing from Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria and Haiti, among many other regions.

“The students don’t have regular exposure to sisters,” Dr. Gaddy said.

St. Francis International School is committed to an objective put forth by the National Black Catholic Congress to promote vocations among people of color. Students not only celebrate Black History Month in February but Black Catholic History Month in November – as well as National Catholic Sisters Week in March.

“We celebrate the legacy and greatness of African Americans through the school year,” Dr. Gaddy said. That helps his students rise above President Trump’s profane comment about African countries, he added. “Our students are affirmed on a daily basis. They are taught critical thinking skills so they can see the hypocrisy of our president and his supporters.”

It’s hard to predict the long-term impact of the students’ trip to the motherhouse, but Dr. Gaddy is content knowing seeds will be planted. “I believe this experience will affirm in some of the girls that it is OK and right and just to think about a vocation as a religious.”

About Christina Capecchi

Christina Capecchi is an award-winning journalist from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She is the author of the nationally syndicated column “Twenty Something,” which appears in more than 50 Catholic newspapers across the country. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, America, The Chicago Tribune, The Star Tribune and The Pioneer Press. She also provides contracted editing and writing services. She holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor’s from Mount Mercy University.