First African American to Head Josephites

With his promotion, black Catholics could become less "invisible."

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Seventy-six-year-old Rev. William Norvel had already spent 50 years working for the inclusion of African Americans in the Catholic Church when he was asked to become the 13th superior general of the Josephite Priests and Brothers, a Roman Catholic order that was started 140 years ago to minister to freed slaves.

Instead of retiring as he'd planned, Norvel accepted the promotion. He's now become the first African American ever to hold the post.

Norvel, 76, spent part of his career in Nigeria persuading seminarians to come back to the United States. In his most recent position, he served as peacemaker, ending a rebellion in which parishioners called the previous white pastor a dictator and a bigot.

"It is about time that [the Josephites] had an African American to lead them," said Deacon Al Turner, director of the Office of Black Catholics for the Archdiocese of Washington. "African American Catholics suffer from invisibility. We have always been doing things, but the larger population thinks that we are invisible because they don't see many blacks in leadership." With Norvel's promotion, it looks like things are changing. 

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