Purvis encourages black Catholics to take action

| Bridget Ryder | March 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

After spending the day with participants of Catholics at the Capitol in St. Paul March 9, Gloria Purvis spent that evening in an intimate meeting with black Catholics at St. Peter Claver in St. Paul, which has historically served black Catholics. The national speaker who addresses a wide variety of audiences makes it a point to meet with black Catholics wherever she goes. 

Gloria Purvis

“When I travel, this is one of my asks: I need to meet with the community there,” she said at the beginning of her talk with about 20 mostly black Catholics. “No one can love you like your mama loves you, and that is what the black Catholic Church has been for me.”

Purvis converted to Catholicism at age 12 after having what she describes as a mystical experience with the Eucharist while attending Catholic school. The presence of a black Catholic Church in her hometown was key to her parents supporting her conversion. Her mom could confidently drop her off at Sunday Mass before taking the rest of the family to the Baptist church.

“They knew I would be safe,” she said. “It was the south.”

Her parents became friends with the pastor, and her siblings eventually joined the Catholic Church.

While she feels a part of the universal Church, she explained that she also knows that the black community has a particular experience and that black Catholics need the support and encouragement of other black Catholics. During the evening, Purvis also shared why she got involved in pro-life work and her own experience of being pressured to have an abortion.

As a married adult with a successful career living in the Washington, D.C., area, Purvis had a second conversion that led to her pro-life activism. One Sunday during Mass, the words of the Creed, “Lord and giver of life” struck her in a way that she literally fell to her knees. In that moment, she said she felt a “small chastisement” for not taking action on her pro-life convictions. Soon after, opportunities to become involved in the pro-life movement appeared.

She started by praying and talking to women outside of abortion clinics. Since then, she has served on the National Black Catholic Congress’ leadership commission and as an advisory board member on both the Maryland Catholic Conference Respect for Life Department and the Archdiocese of Washington’s pastoral council. She has appeared on several EWTN programs, created and hosts the EWTN series “Authentically Free at Last” and co-hosts the EWTN radio show “Morning Glory.” She is also a board member of a pregnancy resource center in Washington, D.C.

Purvis’ pro-life convictions run deep. She also shared her experience of being pressured by her doctor to abort after years of infertility and finally conceiving in her 30s. Instead of congratulating her, the physician, who knew that Purvis was married and had a good paying job, warned her of a complicated pregnancy and the high chance of having a child with a disability. She tried to convince her that a termination was the “responsible” thing to do.

“I wish I could tell you my experience was uncommon,” she said.

But when she compared notes with her black girlfriends, every single one who had conceived past age 30 had been pressured to abort.

Purvis returned to the doctor a year later to show her the perfectly healthy 3-month-old girl she had safely given birth to. While in the office, a black nurse told her that a white woman who was pregnant at that age of 50 was offered resources and support instead of an abortion. Purvis’ daughter is now a healthy 6-year-old.

As Catholics, Purvis said, black Catholics must “lead the charge” in spreading messages of hope, healing and the sacredness of humanity and sexuality in the black community.

“We need to talk about it because abortion is a scourge in our community,” she said. “I’m sharing this because I think we need to start talking about our experiences and creating some messages of love.”

She also encouraged the audience to counter the false compassion and the image of black women as poor, single mothers whom doctors and the abortion industry use to justify their practices.
“I feel like they pimp our image to get our money,” she said.

She also proposed a radical way to fight racism.

“I know a racist is a hurting sinner,” she said, and the way to convert them is prayer and fasting.

Purvis’ message resonated with the audience. Many attended to learn more about the upcoming National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando in July.

Andrea Guines, 51, parishioner at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, said the conversation with Purvis convinced her to go to the congress.

“I would like to see black Catholics come together and be more prominent in social justice issues,” she said.

Sedric Waterman, 75, a parishioner at St. Peter Claver, also appreciated Purvis’ message to get involved.

Another St. Peter Claver parishioner, Stanley Williams, 85, found Purvis’ talk as pertinent for white Catholics as for black Catholics.

“That’s the point she made that is so good,” he said. “My responsibility as a black Catholic is no different than your responsibility as a white Catholic.”

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