The Faith Community of Saint Sabina – Attending a Service at an African-American Catholic Community

Sunday morning, 20th September 2009 – a wonderful sunny day in the windy city of Chicago awaits us. The group meets in front of the China Town Hotel – all dressed up nicely for the upcoming event: a visit at a service of the Faith Community of St. Sabina.
A mix of excitement and tenseness is in the air. I guess, not many of us already had the opportunity to attend an African-American Catholic service. We reach our destination by subway and by bus. Getting closer to the church on 1210 West 78th Place, we can already hear the vivid chant of the talented choir.
“Oh Lord, give me mercy…”
Right now, I am not only really excited; I am also a bit scared. Standing in front of this church is quite impressive when you know you are about to enter. What exactly is going on inside? How will the community react? What actions during the service can we anticipate? All those questions are running through my mind.
To really be part of this is so much different. A unique experience, I do not want to miss and will probably never forget.
Entering the church of St. Sabina’s Faith Community, the guest is welcomed by a huge altarpiece showing Jesus encircled by a pair of protecting but also opening hands. But this impressive image is not what strikes me the most. The yellow-lightened lettering JESUS above the altarpiece primarily catches my attention.


The service is held by Reverend Dr. Michael Louis Pfleger. I took some facts from the website, which offers interesting information concerning the community and its preacher. Particularly, the biography of Father Pfleger is of big interest as he is a Theology alumnus of Loyola University. As a pastor, preacher, parent, lecturer and activist, he is the driving force of the community. When he was appointed pastor of the St. Sabina Church in 1981, he became the youngest full pastor at the age of 31. Father Pfleger is white – a fact that symbolizes the down breaking walls of racism, therefore opening a gathering place for faithful believers – despite their race, class or age.


After the Mass, Father Pfleger talks to the group.

The community is nationally as well as internationally known for its spirit-filled worship. The first mass was celebrated in 1916, since then the vibrant church passionately fights the sins of injustice.
We witness the power of praise and worship – the community ‘celebrates’ this Sunday morning. The people are open-minded and extremely affectionate – a big family hugging each other. It indeed is something special. We enjoy this rare experience. The impressions (accompanied by all the others we already experienced throughout this trip) will be part of us from now on. We leave the church with a smile on our faces – the joy of the community left its footprints.

Christiane Vogel

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