Born in 1854, Mark Moeslein was ordained a Passionist priest in 1878. From 1880 till 1913 he was assigned to the monasteries in Cincinnati, Ohio, Dunkirk, New York and West Hoboken (renamed Union City in 1925), New Jersey .
When Bishop Paul Nussbaum, C.P. took possession of the See of Corpus Christi, Texas in 1913, Moeslein served among African-Americans at Holy Cross Mission till 1927 when he was 73. Thereafter, he continued to minister the Negro population in North Carolina until 1943.
Traditionally, United States Passionist priests and brothers have been identified as living a common monastic life of prayer, penance and solitude, public preaching of parish missions and since the 1920s their retreat house apostolate. In contrast, the story of Moeslein’s commitment started in the monasteries but as the needs changed he did as well. As a result, the full story of his life as a Passionist who lived outside the monastic community and engaged for so many years with Black Catholics in Texas and North Carolina remains to be told.
It was my coming across his October 1931 article in Sign Magazine entitled “Are Negroes Inferior?” that prompted my interest to reflect upon this topic as part of Black History Month 2023. Immediately, I was taken aback by the title of this essay.
As I have read through this contribution, I saw Father Mark Moeslein was attempting to reflect, name and educate readers about what he considered the truth of Gospel values that pertained the issues of race, religion, prejudice and understanding among Catholics and the American public in the early 1930s. Father Moeslein’s observations reminded me that there was so much more to understand on this topic beyond what I had studied as a doctoral in American history at Georgetown University from 1985 to 1992.
I invite you to read this essay: “Are Negroes Inferior?” What is your reaction? What did you learn?
In 2023, I suggest this 1931 essay calls us to ponder how we have learned about Black history? Indeed, it would be certainly worthwhile for scholars to study how this topic was addressed in the pages of The Sign Magazine from 1921 to 1982. Furthermore, the Moeslein article has every possibility to serve as a foundation of understanding for Passionists and all associated with Passionist ministry into the future in all areas of social justice, peace and the integrity of creation. In what way does the Passionist quest for the truth of our history shape our contemporary message to proclaim passion of Jesus as envisioned by Passionist founder St. Paul of the Cross (1692-1775)? May the Passion of Jesus Christ Be Always in Your Heart.