moses-anderson official portraitThe first black bishop to serve in the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit was Bishop Moses B. Anderson.  Anderson passed away last week from cardiac arrest.

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Hundreds attended the Detroit funeral today for Bishop Moses Anderson, recalling how he overcame segregation, poverty and anti-Catholic prejudice in Alabama to become the first African-American Catholic bishop in Detroit. Anderson died on New Year’s Day at age 84 after suffering a heart attack.

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“Bishop Anderson came a long way,” Msgr. James Robinson of Detroit, who knew Anderson for 70 years, told the crowd at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit. “As a young boy in Selma (Alabama), he grew up in the Jim Crow South…We had two worlds, a black world and a white world, for everything…a black church, a white church, a white fountain, a black fountain.”

Racial prejudice wasn’t the only bias Anderson faced.

Despite those challenges, Anderson would go on to become only the seventh African-American bishop in the U.S. and the first and only in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He served as auxiliary bishop for 20 years from 1983 to 2003 and most recently lived in Dearborn and Livonia.

“When he got to Detroit, he was overjoyed,” Robinson said. “He loved being a bishop. He was very friendly with people. He would put his beanie on the kids’ heads.”

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Monday’s funeral was attended by Cardinal Adam Maida, Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron and other clergy, including members of an African-American Catholic group. The services included gospel music. Anderson was known for singing after delivering his homily and he forged ties with the African country of Ghana during his career, becoming a chief of the Ashanti tribe.

Vigneron, who heads the Catholic Church in Michigan, told the crowd Anderson was “an ambassador for Christ on Earth.”

Anderson “created a unity out of diversity,” Vigneron added. “All that he accomplished was for God’s glory.”

About 4% to 5% of metro Detroit’s 1.3 million Catholics are African American, according to church officials. About 5% to 7% of African Americans identify as Catholic.

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