Healy and Ruffin Awards presented at cathedral

BOSTON -- Continuing the tradition of celebrating those who have served the archdiocese's Black Catholic community, the Bishop James Augustine Healy Award and Robert Leo Ruffin Award were presented during a Vespers service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Nov. 13.

Prior to the pandemic, the Healy Award and Ruffin Award were traditionally presented at an annual dinner celebration. In 2020, a virtual event was held in recognition of all previous recipients.

Lorna DesRoses, evangelization consultant of the archdiocese's Black Catholic Ministries, explained that they thought the cathedral was a large enough venue that people could gather to honor the two awardees while maintaining social distancing if desired.

The Ruffin Award is named for the layman who led the Boston delegation at the first Black Catholic Congress in Washington, D.C., in 1889. This award honors practicing Catholics who have served the Black Catholic community and fostered educational and mentorship opportunities.

The 2021 Ruffin Award was presented to Ann McGlinchy Grady, a parishioner of St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Roxbury and a long-time spiritual director. Before her retirement in 2011, she was a math coach and director of instructional technology in the Boston Public Schools. Grady served on her community's parish council for many years and was an organizer of the Gifts of Warmth coat drive for residents of the Shattuck Shelter. She and her husband also demonstrated great hospitality in their home, welcoming neighbors at potluck dinners and hosting approximately 20 international students over four decades.

The Healy Award, named after the first Black Catholic bishop in the United States, is given to practicing Black Catholics who have shown effective leadership and service as well as strong witness to their faith. The 2021 Healy Award was presented to Sister Mary Henrietta Domingo.

Born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Sister Mary Henrietta is active in the Nigerian Catholic Community, St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Roxbury, and other African organizations in the archdiocese. A member of the Institute of the Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, Sister Mary Henrietta was the first African woman to receive a doctoral degree from the Boston College School of Social Work, where she has been an interim lecturer. She also ministers to young adults and the elderly, serving as a spiritual adviser and confirmation teacher.

Upon accepting the award, Sister Mary Henrietta expressed her gratitude to her community leaders in Massachusetts as well as her fellow religious around the world, some of whom, she said, were staying up late to watch the livestream of the event despite the time difference.

"This is an evening of celebration of who we are as a community of faith bound together by our Eucharistic Lord. This Healy Award has made me realize that we never walk alone in serving Christ," she said.

Later that evening, DesRoses acknowledged that both awardees had advocated for the Office for Black Catholics during the archdiocese's synod in 1987 and that they had encouraged many people to participate in the National Black Catholic Congress the same year.

"We thank you, Sister Mary Henrietta and Ann (Grady), for being advocates and raising your voices for Black Catholics within the Archdiocese of Boston," DesRoses said.

The prayer service featured music from the Boston Black Catholic Choir and the Nigerian Catholic Community Choir. Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley led the service and offered a homily in which he reflected on Christ's teachings about love.

"We can truly love God only when we truly love our neighbor, made in his image and likeness. Apart from that love, there is no authentic religion, because love is the essence of our religion," the cardinal said.

He spoke about the "dangerous heresy" of racism, which he said is "a betrayal of our Christian faith as well as our democratic ideals." He acknowledged that the history of the United States has been "marred by the sin of racism," a legacy that it still struggles with today.

"The challenge for believers is to build a civilization of love in a world where there is so much division," Cardinal O'Malley said.

He emphasized the necessity of reconciliation, diversity, tolerance, and solidarity.

"This isn't a utopian quest, but a moral imperative for peace and progress on our planet. Indeed, it's probably a question of survival. There will be a civilization of love or no civilization at all," he said.

DesRoses also addressed racial justice in her closing remarks. She explained that the theme of that evening, "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love," was taken from the title of the United States bishops' 2018 pastoral letter on racism. DesRoses encouraged everyone to read the document and share it with others.

"Each paragraph within that letter is something to not only be read but lived out, and lived out in holy awakening. And I pray that holy awakening would happen within our Church and within our country," DesRoses said.

Speaking to The Pilot after the event, DesRoses said the gathering was an opportunity "to pray, and also to celebrate (the awardees) and their accomplishments within the community. Both of them are amazing women who've done so much, and I'm so happy that we're able to honor them in this way."