Date of Award

Spring 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Theology (ThD)


The Institute of Black Catholic Studies (IBCS) at Xavier University in New Orleans was created in 1979 in order to provide a holistic education for those who serve the Black Catholic community. Additionally, the Institute pledged to provide students with the opportunity to understand Black cultural values and celebrate Black contributions to Catholicism in America. The emergence of the IBCS is best understood within the context of the history of Black Catholics in the United States. This historical framework is also necessary to understand racism as an inherent, pervasive dimension of Black Catholic life. This study outlines the administrative and academic development of the IBCS and reveals both the challenges and achievements experienced by the Institute over the past 36 years, in order to demonstrate the impact of the IBCS on Black American Catholicism and the larger American Church. Through interviews with staff, faculty, alumni, and students, supplemented by archival research, this inquiry demonstrates how the Institute has advanced its mission to the benefit of the Black Catholic community. Black Catholic scholars have distinguished themselves as administrators, professors, or guest lecturers at the IBCS. This study specifically investigates contributions to the IBCS by the scholars, M. Shawn Copeland, Rev. Bryan N. Massingale, and the late Rev. Cyprian Davis. This paper explores how these academics have shaped the IBCS curriculum and argues that they have challenged racism and white privilege within and outside of the xi American Church. Their work, along with that of other influential scholars, provides the impetus for gaining effective social justice ministry skills. This dissertation predicts that the recent relationship formed between the IBCS and the Black Lives Matter movement has brought activism into the academy and poises the Institute for a significant role in accomplishing racial reconciliation within the American Catholic Church. With episcopal support, the IBCS could figure highly in promoting Black Catholic awareness, ministry skills, and, perhaps, eventual racial solidarity.