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“The Ark and The Dove” Podcast Explores Racism and the Black Experience in the Catholic Church

As the Archdiocese of Baltimore continues its Journey to Racial Justice initiative, exploring ways to combat racism and promote culture change in the church, the executive director of the Archdiocesan Institute for Evangelism wanted to make his own discovery of race and its relationship to the heritage of the Catholic Church, particularly in Baltimore.

Edward Herrera, parishioner of St. Ursula in Parkville and executive director of the Archdiocese’s Institute for Evangelism, said he’s always been interested in the issue of race as it relates to the church.

Lifelong Catholic Edward Herrera launched the “The Ark and the Dove” podcast in June. Named after the two companion ships that brought English Catholic settlers to Maryland in 1634, the four-episode podcast features interviews with clergy and subject matter experts as it examines the roles and experiences of black Catholics in the church and America as a whole.

“I had a desire to learn more and better understand, in some ways, the history of the black Catholic church – that is, the practice of the Catholic faith by African Americans – d ‘a way that was shaped by the reality of slavery in the United States,” said Herrera, co-host of the podcast. “Not to say that all black Catholics worship in the same style, but I wanted to learn more about this history and the reality of the racial divide in our country and our church, and understand how we can bring greater reconciliation or bridge this racial divide.”

Herrera, a St. Ursula parishioner in Parkville, said he’s always been interested in the issue of race as it relates to the church. The racial reckoning the country has experienced over the summer of 2020 has further fanned the flames of that interest, he said.

The podcast discusses the general experience of Black Catholics and touches on other topics including how Edmonson Village’s population has gradually changed over time, how corrupt practices such as blockbusting and installment contracts of land played a role in that transition, as well as the scheduling controversy that surrounded St Frances Academy in Baltimore’s 2018 college football team.

Louis Damani Jones, one of Herrera’s co-hosts, assisted with creative direction and framing. Jones, a parishioner of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Belleville, Illinois, saw the project as an opportunity to tell the story of a particular black Catholic community and how its experiences were repeated in black communities across the country.

“We were able to speak with people who have direct experience with these policies,” Jones said. “I was aware of some of the historical facts, but I really gained a lot from listening to the stories. It’s totally different when you can talk to people. When you hear people, it gets out of the realm of ideas and you are dealing with people and reality. You are dealing with people who have been affected by these policies.

"The Ark and The Dove" Podcast Explores Racism and the Black Experience in the Catholic Church
Louis Damani Jones co-hosts The Ark and The Dove podcast (CNS photo/courtesy Louis Damani Jones)

Sara Perla, editing and creative director, said one of the goals of the podcast is to eliminate any racial ignorance that exists in the church, whether intentional or not.

“It’s mainly for Catholics who are tempted to believe that racism is no longer a problem,” said Perla, parishioner of Holy Redeemer in College Park and communications manager for The Catholic Project at Catholic University of America in Washington. “We hope that by listening they will recognize that this is still a problem and that they can do something about it.”

Although primarily aimed at the Catholic community, Herrera said the podcast is structured so that anyone can listen to it and follow the discussions. The wish is that as listeners receive the information, they wonder what they can do to improve race relations in the country.

“I hope it will be received as a point of reflection – an invitation to reflect on the racial divide in the country,” he said. “But also think about how I, as an individual, in my sphere, can work towards racial reconciliation. I hope they will ask themselves this question, especially within the framework of faith, to struggle with these questions.

Some of the guests featured on the podcast include retired Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois; Father Josh Johnson, Vocations Director for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Gloria Purvis, speaker and host of “The Gloria Purvis Podcast”; and Deacon B. Curtis Turner, principal at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore.

The first episode of “The Ark and the Dove” was released on June 19, also known as Juneteenth, commemorating the day in 1865 when some slaves in Texas finally learned of the end of slavery due to the news of the emancipation proclamation that reached them. More episodes followed each week. They are available on all streaming platforms.

For more information visit www.arkanddovepod.com

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