Community Voices

Neighbors in Religion: Catholic nun celebrates 75 years of service to church, community

Sister Mary Clementina Givens.
Sister Mary Clementina Givens. St. Patrick Catholic Church, Miami Beach

Congratulations to Sister Mary Clementina Givens, who earlier this month celebrated her diamond jubilee as a Catholic nun. That’s 75 years of service to her Lord and fellow humans.

Sister Clementina is a member of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the country’s first black order of nuns. Her celebration was spread over two weeks, in two states: Maryland, her home state; and Florida, where she has worked for many years. The first celebration was in August and 17 of her former students and parents from Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Liberty City traveled with her to Baltimore for the festivities.

A second celebration was Sept. 12 at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Miami Beach. “People are still telling me that they have never seen anything so beautiful,” she said.

Recently, I spoke to Sister Clementina on the phone about her 75 years of Christian service. It was hard to believe I was speaking with a 93-year-old woman, who boasts of still being able to work full time at St. Patrick.

Born Gladys Givens in Baltimore, her mother died when she was 2. “I was raised by a Catholic uncle and a Methodist aunt. In those days, when there was a Catholic and non-Catholic marriage, the couple had to promise that any children in the union would be raised Catholic. I was sent to Catholic school and when I was 10, I became Catholic,” she said.

Sister Clementina said that as a young girl, she dreamed of getting married and having a large family. “But that was my idea, not God’s,” she said with a chuckle.

Although she attended high school at Douglass High, a non-Catholic school in Baltimore, she remembers going back to her old Catholic school after classes to help out one of her favorite teachers. “One day she said to me, ‘Gladys, God is calling a young girl but she doesn’t know it. Will you pray for her?’ I didn’t know at the time I was praying for myself.”

She graduated high school in June. “On Sept. 8, I walked into the convent and never wanted to leave,” Sister Clementina said.

As a nun, she became Sister Mary Clementina Givens. And although she didn’t know it yet, her trials were just about to start.

“At the time I became a nun, the Oblate Sisters of Providence was one of only two orders that would accept a black girl. The other community was in New Orleans.”

She recalls that back then, even in the Catholic Church there was much racism. “We used to have to sit in the rear of the church and were the last ones to be served Holy Communion. And once when we attended a service in southern Maryland, we later learned that they had dogs ready to attack us if we tried to integrate the service.

“Another time, when I was teaching at St. Augustus School in Washington during the 1950s, our school was being closed, so we were going to a white school about two blocks away to practice for the children’s first communion. While the children were in line to go into the church, the white children threw garbage on them from an upstairs window. I simply told them, ‘Come on children, we will still be the first black communion class.’”

Through it all, Sister Clementina said, “I always believed that this is where I should be and I just stuck it out. That’s all.”

In the 75 years she has been a nun, Sister Clementina has taught at schools in several states. She started her teaching career at Holy Redeemer Catholic School in Liberty City, and went on to served at schools in Washington (at three different schools); in Chicago; and in Rockford, where she opened the first Office of Black Catholic Ministry. “I stayed there three years before going back to Holy Redeemer,” she said.

Dr. Lynn Rhodes Tatum, who in 1974, graduated head of her eighth grade class under Sister Clementina said, “She was very kind and loving but she was a no-nonsense teacher. She was very disciplined and wanted to make sure we learned; she was very strict. She used to tell us that she wasn’t there to be our friend. When she walked int the room you just knew that you had to get in line. She was committed to our learning; she made us stay focused. I used to think she was so hard on us, but now I can really appreciate her.”

Tatum went on to graduate at the top of her class at Notre Dame Academy, Hampton Institute (now University) and later from Meharry Medical College. She now works as a dentist in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Sister Clementina said she is happy and thankful that she lived to see her Diamond Jubilee as a nun — and that at age 93 she is still working full time.

“I still have children [former students] who come to see me. And of course, they are all retired. My children come from all over and they are still so precious to me.”

Sister Clementina said she intends to retire at the end of this school year and return to Baltimore.

“But I won’t be sitting down waiting for death,” she said. “Death will have to catch up with me. I will be teaching one-on-one classes of children who need assistance in reading and/or math.”

Jenkins celebrates 16th pastoral anniversary

Warm congratulations also to the Rev. Woodrow C. Jenkins, pastor of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church at 1790 NW 55th St., who is celebrating his 16th pastoral anniversary through Sunday.

The anniversary theme is, “A Man Chosen by God,” and celebration services started Sept. 16 with Pastor Martai McCullough and the Greater New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church; and a gospel concert featuring Professor Stephen English on Sept. 18.

Closing events will include a Black and White Banquet at 7 p.m. Friday at the Elks Banquet Facility, 4949 NW Seventh Ave., with moderator Johnny Barber, and services at 7:30 and 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday.

The Rev. Jimmy Bryant and Antioch MB Church of Liberty City will be in charge of the 7:30 a.m. services on Sunday, followed at 11 a.m. by the Rev. Nathan Austin and Mount Zion Baptist MB Church of Pompano. At 4 p.m. Sunday, the Rev. Tracy McCloud and Peace MB Church will be in charge of the service.

The anniversary colors are red and white. For banquet tickets and more information call 954-558-8523 or 786-488-5301.

Adventures in Faith 2015

The Universal Truth Center’s Adventures in Faith (A.I.F) 2015 is an annual campaign that gives the community a chance to commit to the exploration and growth of their spiritual mental/emotional, physical, relational, social, vocational, aspects — as well as providing an opportunity to make a financial commitment to the church, will continue through Oct. 21 at the church, 21310 NW 37th Ave. in Miami Gardens.

One of the main events during the series will be motivational speaker Les Brown, who appears at the 10 a.m. service on Oct. 4.

Brown, a native Miamian, is known for his “high-energy, passionate” messages, often energizes the audience and challenges those present to take steps toward living their dream. He said, “My mission is to get a message out that will help people become uncomfortable with their mediocrity.”

Week Four starts Sept. 30 with “How to Love Your Partner Spiritually.” Edgar Wright will be the presenter.

Week Five on Oct. 7, will cover the topic, “How to Love and Serve Your Neighbor (In Any Circumstance),” with David Cole as the presenter.

Oct. 14 will be the start of Week Six, and will feature “How to Lead Your Career and Life with Heart,” presented by Nerrissa Street and featuring Food Network and Taste the Islands Chef Irie.

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 17, the church will host a “giftedness” workshop to assist and guide individuals who are interested in serving others. The workshop will help them to determine what capacity they may serve best. The workshop will be led by Anita Greer and volunteers from the church.

The series will close with Week Seven on Oct. 21 with “How to Create An Economy of the Heart (Right Where You Are)” with the Rev. Charles Taylor as the presenter and featuring KidzCourt CEO Samantha Porter-Ottley.

All services will start at 7 p.m. and end promptly at 8 p.m. It’s free and open to the public.

National Family History Month

The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation at 1835 NW 54th St. will observe National Family History Month during October. The observance is sponsored by the family history committee of the church and the activities throughout the month.

The month of activities will kick off on Oct. 4, with Family Reunion T-shirt Sunday. From Oct. 4 - 25, there there will be a memorial table display of obituaries of departed family members and also a table with family trees, photos and memorabilia on display.

On each Sunday of the month, starting with Oct. 4, parishioners will participate in “Who Do You Think You Are?/Share Your Family Story.”

Attorney Karen Moore, of the Spartanburg, South Carolina and Grand Cayman Islands Scott-Moore family, will share her family history.

Marvin Elliott Ellis is chairman of the Geneology/Family History Committee.

Songs of Praise Gospel Luncheon

You are invited to a Songs of Praise Gospel Luncheon to be 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the historic St. Agnes Episcopal Church’s Blackett Hall, in the rear of the church at 1750 NW Third Ave. in Overtown.

Presented by the church’s St. Monica’s Chapter of Episcopal Church Women, tickets are $20 per person. Call 786-362-5658 for tickets and for more information.

Fall Indoor Yard Sale

You know it’s fall when Palm Springs United Methodist Church at 5700 W. 12th Ave. in Hialeah has its annual Fall Indoor Yard Sale.

The event, that has become a tradition at the church, will be from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 2, 3, 9 and 10.

Items for sale will include lots of fabrics and craft supplies, clothing (including a large selection of XL clothes), linens, records, videos, toys and children vehicles, baby items, luggage, lamps, pictures. small furniture, books and Halloween and Christmas items and decorations.

Lunch and snack foods will also be for sale. Money raised will be used for church work and missions. Call 305-821-3232, 305-821-2073 or email the office at,

‘Fracking Water Issues’

Coral Gables Congregational Church at 3010 De Soto Blvd. will host a discussion on “Fracking Water Issues” at 4 p.m. Sunday. The discussion will be led by Jennifer Ehrenfried of Food and Water Watch and Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava.

The Food and Water Watch is a national organization working to ban fracking, considered to be a dangerous form of fossil fuel extraction in the United States. The organization aim is to keep drinking water safe, sustainable and secure for future generations. It’s free.

St. Hugh Steinway Concert Series

The St. Hugh-Steinway 2015-16 Concert Series will open at 8 p.m. Friday in St. Hugh Catholic Church, 3460 Royal Rd. in Coconut Grove, with a concert of popular Latin and American love songs and Broadway hits.

Featured artists will include musical stars Ricardo Velasquez (Panama), Miguel Delabarca (Venezuela), Jennifer Zamorano (Miami), and Grethel Ortiz (Cuba), with Roberto Berroca on piano.

Other concerts during the season will feature Aisha Syed, violin; Arturo Chacon-Cruz, tenor, and Roberto Berrocal, piano.

For tickets and more information call 305-318-5008 or go online at

Breast cancer survivors luncheon

The 10th annual Women’s Luncheon in Observance of Breast Cancer Survivors will be 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 10 at Signature Grand in Dania.

This has always been a well-attended event, so make reservations now by calling evangelist Giogi Rolle-Holloway at 786-246-7578 or go online to Purchase tickets by PayPal.

The annual event is sponsored by the Sistah to Sistah Connection, which strives to reach out to women who need to be uplifted, both emotionally and spiritually.

The luncheon features a guest speaker and lots of good gospel music. Tickets are $35 each.

Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Religion Notes, c/o Neighbors, 2000 NW 150th Ave., Suite 1105, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028, fax it to 954-538-7018 or email Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.