One Church Many Cultures The Good News of Cultural Diversity Newsletter Spring/Summer 2021
African American Affairs
The Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary – Continuing a 400-year Social Justice Legacy
By: 14th Supreme Lady Micaela J. Le Blanc
Born approximately 100 years after Columbus’s journey that began the colonization of the Americas by Europeans, Father Peter Claver, a newly ordained Spanish priest traveled to Cartagena, Columbia South America to begin his ministry. During this time, there was high demand for slaves to work the rich Spanish plantations. Cartagena was a major port for the slave trade.
Father Peter Claver put himself at the service of the slaves-- tending their basic needs (food, medicine, clothing, etc.); which put him in the crosshairs of Christian slave masters. He eventually won them over by being relentless in his demonstration that these were human beings/God’s creation. Father Peter Claver is credited with evangelizing into the faith over 300,000. Pope Leo XII canonized him on January 15, 1888.
In the early 1900’s during reconstruction in the United States; the movement to establish social justice/fraternal organizations in the Black community was at its peak (e.g., NAACP, the Black Greek Fraternities and Sororities). Out of a need to render aid to the Black community and that other Catholic fraternal orders were not open to Black people, in 1909 four Josephite priests and three laymen came together to establish the Knights of Peter Claver, Incorporated (KPC), to provide opportunities for Catholics to serve their Church and to respond to the call of the gospel.
In 1926 this expanded to include Ladies and by 1935 the entire family could join the Knights, Ladies Auxiliary, Junior Knights and Junior Daughters; thus, began the parish based/family focused era of continuing to fight for a ‘just’ society for all. Headquartered in New Orleans, LA, KPC’s Executive Director is Mr. Grant Jones who overseas an office and staff in support of the order. Membership numbers approximately 17,000, there are over 600 courts, councils, and junior units domiciled in parishes and dioceses throughout the United States and on the Island of St. Andres in Colombia, South America.
The Knights, Ladies, and Juniors have remained faithful to the church throughout segregation, the religious sex abuse scandals, and the continued fight for racial equality. Since inception, KPC has provided over $25 million dollars in scholarship monies, tutoring programs for youth, supported vocations and catholic schools, established a foundation (https://claverfoundation.org) with a $3 million endowment; supported research and aid to those with blood related diseases – Sickle Cell Anemia/Kidney Foundation; fed the hungry in soup kitchens/food pantries, survived Hurricane Katrina, and continues to reaffirm it social justice commitment by pivoting during the pandemic with virtual discussions and webinars, internationally, that address Domestic Violence, Dignity of Black Life/Black Lives Matter, Human Trafficking, Criminal Justice, and Racism. Check out the virtual discussions and other social justice virtual sessions held by KPC at https://www.kofpc.org/kpc_social_justice_resources.php
The Order has partnered with various national organizations including the KPC partners include but not limited to the The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Urban League, Xavier University, International Alliance for Catholic Knights, National Black Catholic Congress, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Black Clergy, NCCW, World Union of Catholic Women Organizations, National Black Sisters Conference, National Council of Negro Women, American Association of Retired Persons, and Moldex, Inc.
Over the 111-year history, there have been 17 Supreme Knights--current Supreme Knight/CEO is Most Worthy James Ellis from Houston, Texas; 14 Supreme Ladies with Most Esteemed Micaela Le Blanc from Los Angeles, CA leading the Ladies Auxiliary; current Junior Supreme Knight is Worthy Kamare Narcisse of Louisiana and Junior Supreme Lady is Esteemed Kennedy Wiltz of Texas. The Fourth Degree Knights are led by Supreme Navigator Sir Knight Stephen Randle and the Fourth Degree Ladies of Grace are led by Supreme Navigator Dame Marion Smith Reynoso. KPC has a strategic objective to be the volunteer organization of choice for every practicing Catholic. The struggle continues and to God be the Glory!! Check out KPC, Incorporated at https://www.kofpc.org and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.