Deacon Al Anderson promotes cultural diversity in the Diocese of Arlington

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deacon 50th anniversaryThis is the fourth in a series of articles throughout the year celebrating the 50th anniversary of the reinstitution of the permanent diaconate in the United States. 

Sometimes you think you know someone. Then you are put in a new position that allows you to know even more. That has been true for Deacon Albert A. Anderson Jr. 

He has been a parishioner of St. Joseph Church in Alexandria for nearly 30 years. Serving there as a deacon since 2011, he said it is a different way of ministering to the parish. 

“It is ministering to my parishioners, who were my friends, in a different way,” he said. “They shared things that I didn’t know were going on in their personal lives.” 

Deacon Anderson has watched the children of the parish grow up. As a deacon he has baptized their children and celebrated their weddings. “Being able to do God’s work with the blessing of the sacrament and the grace of the sacrament of holy orders has been so special,” he said.

Deacon Anderson, born in Norfolk July 3, 1945, was in the first class of deacons ordained after a 20-year hiatus. He was ordained by Bishop Paul S. Loverde Jan. 15, 2011, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington. He was the first African-American permanent deacon ordained in the diocese. “The significance was not lost on me,” he said. 

Deacon Anderson was appointed chairman of the diocesan Black Catholic Ministries by Bishop Loverde, a role that has given him the opportunity to celebrate diversity.

“One of the greatest treasures of our church is its diversity, and I think that in a lot of instances, that diversity is seen more as a cause for separation than a cause for unity and celebration,” he said. “Being chairman gives me an opportunity to bring the spiritual gifts and cultural gifts of the black Catholic community to the diocesan table, to enrich the diocese with our spirituality.” 

Deacon Anderson said each culture brings a different type of spirituality and a different flavor to the faith. “Being able to share that with the diocesan community has been a great blessing for us and the diocese.”

The Black Catholic Ministries committee hosts days of reflection that focus on the principles of the National Black Catholic Congress. “The goal (of the committee) is to help share black Catholic spirituality with the church at large and also be a support network for lots of black Catholics in parishes where they may be just a handful,” said Deacon Anderson. “Our culture is not celebrated as much and people may feel a little disconnected socially, so Black Catholic Ministries serves as a kind of support network.” 

Deacon Anderson recognizes there is still work to do in terms of racism in this country. He tries to bring encouragement. “I do this by reminding us of the vocation we were given at baptism that we really are in this together,” he said. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018

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