More than 200 people gathered at St. Alphonsus Center in Wilson, NC, Saturday, September 24, 2011, for a picnic to celebrate the ministry of Msgr. Thomas P. Hadden, who recently retired from active ministry. Msgr. Hadden has been a Priest for more than 50 years in the Diocese, including 23 years as Vicar for African Ancestry Ministry and Evangelization (AAMEN).
In addition to his pastoral work, Msgr. Hadden began working soon after Ordination on behalf of African American Catholics in the Diocese. He aided Bishop Vincent Waters in his efforts to integrate Diocesan churches and schools; he marched for Civil Rights in the '60s and can recall being harassed by the Klu Klux Klan in his early parish assignments. As Vicar for Black Catholics, he directed his efforts to supporting Black Catholic culture and spirituality. He helped organize retreats, picnics, liturgies and opportunities for recognition among the community entrusted to his care.
In the '80s it became apparent that African Catholics were moving into the Diocese and also required organizational and spiritual support. “The first African Catholics to organize within the Diocese of Raleigh were the Swahili-speaking people from Kenya and Tanzania,” Msgr. Hadden wrote in a column for the NC Catholics magazine. “Later we became aware of the influx of French-speaking Africans.
“Bishop Gossman and now Bishop Burbidge have invited priests from Africa to provide pastoral care to these people, to organize events to celebrate their cultures and heritages, and to provide support and encouragement. The communities are also encouraged to support and be active in their regular parishes.”
Msgr. David D. Brockman, Vicar General of the Diocese, attended the picnic on behalf of Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, who presided at Msgr. Hadden’s retirement luncheon in August. Msgr. Brockman reiterated the profound gratitude of the Bishop and the Diocese for Msgr. Hadden’s long service. Father Marcos Leon, who has succeeded Msgr. Hadden as Vicar, also thanked Msgr. Hadden for his example and guidance. Msgr. Hadden thanked all in attendance, and expressed special gratitude for the ongoing support of his family.
Above: Msgr. Thomas P. Hadden addressing friends at retirement picnic in his honor at St. Alphonsus Center in Wilson.
Below: Part of the more than 200 people who attended the picnic to celebrate the ministry of Msgr. Hadden.