M. Shawn COPELAND, editor, Uncommon Faithfulness: The Black Catholic Experience. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2009. pp. 210. $26.00 pb. ISBN 978-1-57075-819-5.
Reviewed by Mary L. GAUTIER, Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Georgetown University, 2300 Wisconsin Ave NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20007.

Uncommon Faithfulness is a collection of essays from a conference on the experience of African American Catholics that was held at the University of Notre Dame in spring 2004. The fourteen essays are written by leading Black Catholic theologians, scholars, and ecclesial leaders and are arranged thematically into three parts: history, theology and ethics, and pastoral concerns.

The first five essays deal with aspects of the history of Black Catholics in the United States, including essays about African American communities of women religious and essays about Black Catholics and the civil rights movement in the United States. These essays discuss historical figures and situations that may not be familiar to many students of American Catholic studies and would make fine reading assignments for undergraduate students for Black History Month.

The next five essays deal with theological and ethical aspects of the Black Catholic experience. Theologians in this section treat theological aspects of the blues, passing on the tradition, community, feminism, and HIV/AIDS all as they relate to the experience of Black Catholics.

The final set of essays deal with pastoral concerns related to Black Catholics. This section is of most interest to pastoral leaders who have an interest in and concern for multicultural aspects of the Catholic Church. The essays in this part discuss the contribution of Black Catholics to the Church, including their leadership as a minority in the Church, their legacy of sacred music, and the influence of immigrant African Catholics on the Church in the United States.

The essays in this compilation offer a rich variety of information about the Black Catholic experience in the United States that is poorly understood and underappreciated by Catholics today. The book is a good resource for Catholic Studies courses, Black history courses, and pastoral leaders and Catholics in general who wish to learn more about the uncommon faithfulness of Black Catholics in the United States.


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