Brooklyn pastor remembered for breaking barriers | Black History Month

Father Alonzo Cox, the pastor of Our Lady of Victory Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, was just 9 years old when he decided to become a priest after seeing Pastor Martin Carter celebrate mass. 

"Something in my mind said maybe God is calling me to be a priest," Cox said. "I didn't think I could because I never met a Black priest until I met Father Carter." 

Carter died in December at the age of 91 but not before making his mark in history. In 1995, he became the first Black pastor of Our Lady of Victory Church. Carter was born in the segregated South and faced racism trying to fulfill his vocation.

He first took his vows to become a Catholic priest in 1950 but it would take him 25 years to become ordained, a struggle that tested his faith. 

"At that time, it just wasn't seen that a Black man would want to be a priest," Cox said, "and his ordination kept getting delayed and getting delayed." 

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Carter felt it was very important for his parishioners to identify with religious figures so he made it a point to make sure there were statues of saints who represent people of color. 

"He brought here to this parish images of saints that looked like the community, so images of Black saints, right above the altar is Jesus painted Black," Cox said.

Carter once hosted Mother Teresa at the church and later attended the 150th anniversary of this historic church. But it was how he set an example for others that Cox holds dear. 

"He paved the way for young Black priests like me to get to where I am at today," Cox said.