Black Catholics in U.S. sing out: ‘Heal Our Land’

Sensing the uncertain mood of the country with the transition in presidential administrations, several African-American Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of New Orleans joined parishes across the country on Jan. 15 to pray for hope and healing in America.
“There’s a movement around the nation to celebrate the end of the Obama administration and the beginning of the Trump administration,” said Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri. “It’s called ‘The Black Catholic National Sing Out – Heal Our Land.’”
At Masses on Jan. 14-15, black Catholic churches across the country sang “Heal Our Land,” a song written by Dallas-based composer Oscar Williams.
Williams is a frequent contributor to the annual Archbishop Lyke Conference for African-American Catholics. A video of the song is available at
Bishop Cheri said while the U.S. “yearns for a more perfect union … the sights and sounds of divisions at every turn remind all of our imperfection and constant need for divine intervention.”
The Jan. 15 weekend was chosen because it is the beginning of “the new year of the Lord,” the end of the Christmas season, the liturgical celebration of the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus after his baptism, the Martin Luther King holiday and the commemoration of the civil rights movement.
“The moments, markers and reminders each speak to the ongoing work of healing divisions from the past in hope of the ideal for a more perfect union,” Bishop Cheri said.

Richard Cheri, Bishop Cheri’s brother and the music director at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, said the text of the song is based on 2 Chr 7:14: “If then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.”

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at

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