Speak to my Heart
Communities of Faith and Contemporary African American Life.

Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture

Interview with Grace Wilkes, St. Gabriel Catholic Church


"...what difference does it make whether a black person is Catholic. It's a religion. It's the feeling. It's the inspiration you get in your soul..."

MS. MORRIS: Could you please state your name?
MS. WILKES: Grace Dolores Wilkes.
MS. MORRIS: And where were you born?
MS. WILKES: Dolores with a "D-o."
MS. MORRIS: D-o.
MS. WILKES: Yes.
MS. MORRIS: Okay.
MS. WILKES: Washington, D.C.
MS. MORRIS: Okay. How long have you been a member of St. Gabriel?
MS. WILKES: Since 1955. My math isn't that good. [Laughter]
MS. MORRIS: Can you tell me all that you remember about your confirmation ceremony?
MS. WILKES: I think the main impression I have is what I noticed other people having. When you're sitting there, and you're being told that the Holy Spirit will come up upon you and give you wisdom, and the Bishop asks you questions about your catechism, and about what you know, just to test your knowledge, you have a little tremor in the bottom of your stomach, and wonder, "Should I raise my hand on this one? Do I really know it? Should I answer? Should I try to answer? Am I going to be wrong? Am I going to be right?

And no one else raises their hand, and you tentatively raise yours, and then you're kind of perspiring, and you've got the answer right, and you sit down. [Sighs.] Breathe a sigh.

And when they anoint you with the oil, you feel as though you're someone special, that you've become someone else. That you're going to be a better person and a stronger person.

And I've always believed that the rest of my life, throughout all the problems I've had, and the way I was able to face them, that it was through the Holy Spirit that has given me the strength.

MS. MORRIS: Okay. Did your parents always belong to St. Gabriel?
MS. WILKES: No. My mother was a member of St. Augustine's. As a matter of fact, she had me baptized when I was a baby, and I insisted that she become baptized by the time I was eight years old, I think she said.

So she was a convert in that sense. She always went to Catholic Church, but she didn't come -- she wasn't baptized until I was eight. Between -- somewhere between eight and nine.

So St. Augustine's was our parish.

MS. MORRIS: So what prompted them to leave St. Augustine?
MS. WILKES: When we moved.
MS. MORRIS: Okay.
MS. WILKES: We moved, and we were only two blocks, two-and-a-half blocks, from St. Gabriel. And when we started going -- well, actually, to be honest, she started going to St. Gabriel before I did. I continued at St. Augustine because I was singing in the choir, I was very active in a lot of the activities there.

At that time, a lot of the members were, like the members of St. Gabriel are now, they were staid, stuffy, so to speak, in a way, and very conservative.

So I stayed at St. Augustine's until my son was about four. So that must have been 1962. I stayed there until then, because LaDonna (?) -- they started school at St. Gabriel. She started in the first grade at St. Gabriel's, but went to St. Augustine's for the first grade.

And I started at -- stayed at St. Augustine's because I liked the choir. And the Sunday my son walked up and down the aisle to go up on the altar to see what was going on while I was singing, though, was about my last time there. I decided to go where he couldn't wander around the church.

So that's about 1962. I would go to St. Gabriel's in between, if I wasn't singing, and for holy days, I would go. But my basic church was still St. Augustine's for a long time.

MS. MORRIS: What do you remember most about St. Augustine? Being in the choir, or --
MS. WILKES: Well,I remember the first church, the big church down at 15th and M.
MS. MORRIS: Okay.
MS. WILKES: It was the Gothic type church. Big, a lot of steps. The interior always seemed to inspire peaceful thoughts, and made you feel as though you were holy.

I don't know if that's a good way to put it, but I used to love to go in and just say prayers in front of the altar. And just sort of feel, I guess, maybe the spirit. As I got older, maybe I'm thinking it was the spirit, the Holy Spirit, was with me.

But, as a kid, I would go there, and we had May processions, and I was so anxious to remain with them, even after I had graduated from the school. They had such wonderful May processions that I was out of the ninth grade. I think I was in about the tenth grade of high school when I was in the May procession.

We had to wear long white dresses, and you carried the flowers, white flowers for the Blessed Mother, and then there's always the Queen of the May procession, and would carry the Blessed Mother statue. And we would go around 15th Street, around M Street, and come back into the church.

And that was a big thrill. That was just a -- this young lady, at that time, was my girlfriend, who is now helping me with Donna. We're still friends.

MS. MORRIS: After all these years.
MS. WILKES: But we were in the May procession together that year, and that refers to that picture. And I've kept it all these years, just to remind me.
MS. MORRIS: What about the interior that made you feel inspired?
MS. WILKES: The windows. The stained glass windows, depicting the various scenes, Biblical scenes, and other impressions you received of Biblical times, and saints, maybe.

And I liked the way the Stations of the Cross were more vivid to me in the old structure more so than the newer churches, have a little things -- you know, like gold frame, or a modern, modernistic scenes for the stations of the cross. But it was the totality of feeling of spirituality while you're in the church.

Churches were open. We didn't have -- they weren't locked. You could go in and pray at any time during the day. And it was -- when you kind of felt, "Well, I came" -- I grew up.

I had a sister who died when she was sixteen, and she had epilepsy. And my mother worked two jobs, and it was very hard, so I -- I had to pray a lot.

That's when I went down to St. Mary's for the Novena, because I had to pray for my sister and my mother and my grandmother, so that God would find a way to help us and them for the Novena that his Mother would intercede, and ask him to make my sister well, to do things well fro my mother.

That was -- I guess I -- I was kind of what they call holy? So I was teased by some of my schoolmates, because, "Oh, that's going to be Sister Grace, when she grows up."

MS. MORRIS: Did you ever consider being a nun?
MS. WILKES: I considered it, but at the time I should have been able to go into St. Francis Academy in Baltimore, my mother simply couldn't spare me. By that time, my grandmother had gotten older, and my sister needed more care. My mother had to work. My father was not supporting us.

So it was easier for me to just go on to public school and not worry about it. And then I thought, maybe, in the end, I could do just as much good if I worked in the world, and could be an example to people.

Now, I didn't think of that myself, that phrase, be an example to people. I was told that by a lot of other people. It didn't occur to me, until I guess I was past forty when people told me about the inspiration they got from me when I was younger.

There is one member of St. Gabriel's now -- her name is Ella -- she and her sister, Veronica, were in St. Augustine's school with me, and she's the one who has reminded me of what I was like when I was young. And it's hard to hear these things about yourself. It's even harder to say it. But someone else said it, so I feel as though I can repeat that talk.

But I did want to be a nun, because I thought it was noble. I thought it was something that every girl would want to do. I did. [Laughter]

MS. WILKES: Don't laugh. But I did. I thought every Catholic girl wanted to be a nun, and it began to surprise me, as I matured -- thirteen, fourteen -- [Laughter]
MS. WILKES: To find out that this wasn't the case at all, that there were other things out in the world. And I began to accept the fact, as I said, that I could not, and didn't dwell on it, just kept on going.
MS. MORRIS: Okay. Now, how has the church changed for the better or worse over the years? St. Gabriel?
MS. WILKES: St. Gabriel has gone through a lot of changes, and the Archdiocese itself has a lot to do with some of the changes. Vatican II inspired a lot of the changes, or caused a lot of the changes, which the Archdiocese was to put into place in each church would fit in with their program.

So having had various pastors over the years, it's kind of unlike some churches where a man stays pastor for twenty-five or thirty years. You have -- the pastor is like any other leader or head. His imprint is on the way the Church operates, and how it functions. How happy the people are, or how dissatisfied, or how smoothly everything runs.

We had one priest who was there at the time Father McCaffrey first -- his first assignment there. His name was Monsignor Miltonberger. And affectionately, we always called him "Uncle Miltie." [Laughter]

MS. WILKES: But -- behind his back. And I think some might have said it to his face.

But Monsignor was the kind of person who would walk up to your house, and we could see his figure getting ready to knock on our door on Sunday afternoon, and he'd come to you and ask you to be a part of something, be involved. He really involved his parishioners in various programs within the church, and especially the parents.

As time passed, with St. Gabriel, priests became more scarce. We did not have a priest, a pastor and two associates. We were lucky, during those early days that we had it.

We then had a pastor and one associate, and as the need increased, after the '68 riots, as the need for -- that people had for shelter, food, et cetera, happened, St. Gabriel's was drawn into this need by being a church where people could come and request assistance.

Then there was the kind of population growth. There was the fact that the priests were on call so much. And it was difficult for them to come out to us and bring us into the church the way Monsignor Miltonberger did.

And, as time has passed, it has gotten even more difficult for a time. Sometimes, we only had one pastor and, you know, associate. They would have someone come in to assist.

So more responsibility fell to the pastor. More obligations were put on St. Gabriel's as social concerns became a priority. As we became involved with the youth, more programs were put in place, and there just wasn't enough time for that intimacy that used to take place between certain parishioners and the pastor of the church.

The demands of time -- as time has passed, it has also affected -- has had an impact on the church and its ability to be very close to as many parishioners as possible.

MS. MORRIS: Uh-huh.
MS. WILKES: In his way, still, Father McCaffrey knows a great deal about a lot of the parishioners. He goes to visit those that are sick. He isn't able to do it as often, but he does do the very best he can.

But when you're raising money, you're involved in obtaining grants to get the church plant overhauled and restructured, this takes up an awful lot of your time.

And then, you know, there's the finance committee, and all of the other committees that he's got to oversee. So things have really changed, as far as the availability of priests at St. Gabriel's.

I can remember when I could go down and say, "I need to talk to you for a minute," and he'd say, "Oh, come on in the room." And we'd go in there and talk. Now you have to make an appointment, because they just don't have the time to be totally available.

And I think the shortage of priests has had its full impact on the black Catholic Church, in particular, because there are not enough white priests, let alone enough black priests, so you will find a lot of African-American churches with, still, white pastors. And that's unfortunate, but people are not drawn into the ministry, the vocation, of the Catholic Church as much as they are into the ministry of the Protestant religions.

MS. MORRIS: Yes.
MS. WILKES: And I think it's a lot easier, in the Protestant religion, to get your certificate to preach, and to become a minister or preacher.
MS. MORRIS: Uh-huh.
MS. WILKES: I wanted to become a preacher at one time. [Laughter]
MS. WILKES: I do prayers, extemporaneous prayers, when I give Donna communion, and there are people there with her, and I pray for all of them, and the prayers are extemporaneous, and Donna says, "Mommy, you really need to" -- it's a shame the Catholic Church -- [inaudible]. [Laughter]
MS. WILKES: I do -- I do like spreading the word of the Lord, and asking for prayer, for blessings for people.
MS. MORRIS: Okay.
MS. WILKES: And I got that from listening to my priest at St. Gabriel's, and from inspiration, I still say, from the Holy Spirit for my confirmation. [Laughter]
MS. MORRIS: Now, I'm going to back up a little bit.
MS. WILKES: Okay.
MS. MORRIS: I want to know -- could you tell me about your experience at St. Gabriel when it was a mostly white congregation?
MS. WILKES: The most memorable experience I have was -- well, I went there, and you heard me say I've been at the choir at St. Augustine, right?
MS. MORRIS: Right.
MS. WILKES: And so I'm going to lend my voice to St. Gabriel's, right? So I go up to the choir loft, and I said, "I want to join the choir." Okay. Yes.

I had to share music. And of course, this won't come across on your tape, but shared music was this way. And I won't mention any of the names of the people, but they were middle-aged, elderly ladies who was singing, and I'm a soprano, and I need music.

I'm standing here, and I'm supposed to be sharing the book with the lady who's standing here. So she's holding the book, and I kind of tilt it, and she holds it back.

So what I had to learn to do was memorize. I remembered music a lot. Because those first couple of years was very difficult with the choir, especially.

It wasn't so bad down in the church proper, where you were seated, because everyone was involved in their own prayers. Of course, this was before Vatican II, when the priest had his back to the people, and facing the big altar, and people sat and said the rosary, read their prayer books During Mass, you could follow along with the Mass, with the Latin on one side and the English on the other. You could follow the Mass with what they were doing.

So the congregation, the mixed congregation didn't seem to have any problems as far as the services itself was concerned.

I was not as active in the parish organizations, because once my children were in school there, I was more active in the school. And in the school activities. And the parents who had kids in school were okay. Just like the parents of today. We had no racial problems.

But the older generation who still attended just kind of kept themselves a little bit apart. They were polite. But the worst experience was standing up in that choir, and trying to learn that music from people who would hold the book so far away. [Laughter]

MS. WILKES: So that was my only bad experience at St. Gabriel's. [Laughter]
MS. MORRIS: Do you have any positions in the church?
MS. WILKES: Not now. For the past -- I guess almost ten years, especially the past ten years, I have been so involved with Donna's care -- in and out of hospitals. When she was in school in the late '70s and the early '80s, Harvard, I was back an forth there, because she was in and out of the hospital, in and out of the infirmary.

So my time was taken up with trying to make life as easy for her as possible, trying to be there for her, so that being so far away from home, undergoing surgery, and being around, just strangers -- I tried to just be there for her.

When she came home, as the effects of various surgeries began to cause other problems, I was still working, and I stayed with the choir, and I'd go to Wednesday practice when I could, but she still needed a lot of attention and care here.

MS. MORRIS: Uh-huh.
MS. WILKES: So I did not devote as much time to organizations in the church. And later on, in the late '80s, it was my mother -- her house, which was near the church, as she had major surgery which brought on dementia, and lived alone.

My Dad -- my stepdad; I called him my dad -- my stepdad had died, and I was trying to run two households for a long while. And then trying to find someone to live with her. So I really did not have time to be involved in the church.

I would go to meetings where they would talk about the future of the church, but I didn't hold any position, because I couldn't devote my time to it. I didn't feel it was a good idea to be a part-timer. I wanted to be either fully involved, or not.

So what I do now is, I help wherever I can for -- at one point, a long time ago, I started a newsletter. It was called "Gabriel's Horn." They've now started it up again, using a different format. They kept the name. And at one point, when Father McCaffrey first came in, with the shortage of priests and nuns, and so forth, I helped prepare the bulletin.

Now, I always did things that involved my writing, because, since I am a poet -- a published poet, I--

MS. MORRIS: Oh.
MS. WILKES: Yes. I've done that. And so my writing skills were always part of what I did for the parish.

The prayer that was used for the 75th anniversary was the prayer that I had written for it. And now, Sister Maria is having me to rewrite guidelines for the lectors, and make up the schedules for the lectors, and, you know, things -- anything that would involve writing that means that it would have to take away from her work.

So I don't hold a position, but I am involved in what's going on.

MS. MORRIS: Now, you said you were in the choir.
MS. WILKES: Yes.
MS. MORRIS: Can you tell me what is your favorite hymnal, and why?
MS. WILKES: I didn't have a favorite hymnal, and the reason why is because I grew up with the classical masses, the Schuberts, Mozart. All of the Masses that had this gorgeous music.

And after that, and too, when we had to go into the every day music, there weren't that many hymns that I really felt good about.

MS. MORRIS: Uh-huh.
MS. WILKES: I liked the anthems. Occasionally, choir directors would give us great anthems to sing, but they were always by famous composers, too, mostly.

So I can't say, truthfully, that -- I can say I appreciate this -- what is it? What is the name of our hymnal?

MS. MORRIS: African-American --
MS. WILKES: No, no, no. Turn it off for a minute. [Recording interruption]
MS. WILKES: The hymnal we use is the "Lead Me, Guide Me," which is used in a lot of churches, not just the Catholic Church, because the hymns that are included in it are traditional, in the sense that they're African-American, they're spiritual, they are for every kind of occasion.

And things like "Amazing Grace," "Faith of Our Fathers," "Great is My Faithfulness," and "How Great Thou Art" -- which is one of my favorites. Those are all included, and they're sung in many, many churches, not just the Catholic Church. So we are using that.

I used to enjoy the productions that we had of doing the Easter part of Handel's "Messiah," and at Christmastime, we would go through the "Halleluiah" chorus. And we used one hymn called "God So Loved the World." Was a very -- I don't know. It just has so much pathos in it, that you feel it, and when it's done properly, you know that -- you feel the words. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that he so shall" -- I mean, it's just the words that mean a lot to me.

And, as a matter of fact, almost all the hymns or secular songs that I like -- I sing in a choral group -- all of those, the words always is meant something to me. And maybe it had something to do with the fact that I write; I don't know. But the words of music mean a lot to me.

MS. MORRIS: A lot to you.
MS. WILKES: Uh-huh.
MS. MORRIS: Okay.
MS. WILKES: It has to say something to the inner me.
MS. MORRIS: Uh-huh.
MS. WILKES: And touch me in a way that makes me feel it inside.
MS. MORRIS: Okay.
MS. WILKES: You know, I didn't realize that until I just said it?
MS. MORRIS: Really?
MS. WILKES: Uh-huh. As I was talking to you, I could -- I was trying to define it to myself, and that's the way I feel.
MS. MORRIS: Well, do you have a favorite Bible verse, or a story? That means something to you?
MS. WILKES: I have a Bible upstairs where I have a lot of passages. And I'm not one who can remember chapter and verse, but I do recall the portions of the Bible sessions where it impresses me a lot, in the new Testament, as well as in the Old Testament.

And among them, was the Sermon on the Mount, where God gave the Beatitudes, the words that said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the earth," you know?

MS. MORRIS: Uh-huh.
MS. WILKES: It's phrases from various Bible passages that I remember. And the one from St. -- is it John XIII, about love? When I did a speech -- I was a toastmaster, and often spoke at prayer breakfasts, and I gave one on love. And I used John XIII -- I through XIII -- as a basis of what -- love is kind, love is gentle, you know.

And those are the ones that I remember. I have my own funeral service arranged, along with my husband's, and I put my favorites down on paper, so I've got that arranged already. And -- so some of my favorite psalms. Psalm 127 is the one I want read for me. [Laughter]

MS. WILKES: Don't think it's strange that you do it. When you have a small family --
MS. MORRIS: I do.
MS. WILKES: Yeah. See, this is the family, with the exception of his father, who is in a nursing home, who can't speak. So if I don't -- about five years ago, when we began. My daughter has hers all prepared, and then I began preparing, so that I had his mothers, my husband's mother's all ready. I had his father's ready. I had my mother's. And now I have his and mine.

Because if you have to depend on someone else to do it, it's not easy. So in a small family, it's best to take care of those things while they're still living, and know what you want.

And also, always know -- I always was very keenly aware of mortality from the time I was -- early on. I knew that from your catechism, your basic catechism, you were born to be in this world to know -- to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in Heaven.

MS. MORRIS: Uh-huh.
MS. WILKES: The final part of everything is, you will be happy in Heaven. Heaven will be your home. So with that in mind, you know that there is a finality to the world, and that's the end of this process, where you will go on into another.

So that's why preparing ahead of time for a funeral isn't a task that should be thought of as, "Ooh, I don't want to think about that," but it's going to happen, and whenever it happens, nobody around you is ready for it. Sometimes you aren't ready for it. But you know it's got to happen.

So you help your family as much as possible. [Laughter]

MS. MORRIS: Tell me what it means to you to be black and Catholic.
MS. WILKES: I don't think there's any particular separation there.
MS. MORRIS: Okay.
MS. WILKES: I'm a human being. And I'm Catholic.
MS. MORRIS: Uh-huh.
MS. WILKES: Racially, I happen to be black, African-American. I mean, Jennifer, I was "colored," once. I was a "Negro" once, okay? And probably a few other things that they didn't say in front of my face. [Laughter]
MS. WILKES: So it doesn't have any specific meaning for me to say that I'm black and Catholic.
MS. MORRIS: Uh-huh.
MS. WILKES: I remember during the '60s, especially when President Kennedy -- when Kennedy became President, there was a lot of talk about blacks and Catholics -- and Catholicism, and I forgot about it the day I went to a holy day Mass at St. Stephen's at 25th and Pennsylvania Avenue.

This was the first year that Kennedy was President, and they didn't have all of the Secret Service people around that they later had. And he was sitting in front of me in church, with Secret Service on either side of him, one in front, and one sat in the pew beside me, behind him.

And at that time, I'm thinking, "Oh. The President. Yeah, he is Catholic. So what difference does it make whether a president is Catholic, whether a black person is Catholic. It's the religion. It's the feeling. It's the inspiration you get in your soul. It's how you feel about God that's important, not how you feel about being black, or being president, or being anything."

MS. MORRIS: Uh-huh.
MS. WILKES: It's how you feel about worshipping the Creator, the one who made you.

So at that point, as I had heard things about, you know, "These blacks don't know what they're doing, being Catholic, taking orders from the Pope, a man in Rome." Hey, wait a minute. That's not the case.

We are following the dictates that we've been taught to believe in. We have faith, and without faith, there is no religion. And -- as far as I am concerned.

MS. MORRIS: Uh-huh.
MS. WILKES: You've got to believe, and in that belief, you have to have faith in what you are learning. And I believe that Christ died and was buried and rose on the third day. I believe that he was born to a virgin, in a manger, in some little place -- they say it's a stable, but wherever it was. He came to earth as a baby comes to earth. In fact, my last book of poems has a lot in it about the birth, the infant birth.

So those beliefs are also found in a lot of my writings. The belief that -- and none of my writings are what you would call "black" or "African-American." They're -- as I to say to myself, they're human. They come from a human perspective, and when I write memorials for someone, for a funeral, to be read at a funeral, or whatever, it's always the ending. They'll meet again, in someplace -- in Heaven. If your tears fall, they fall like gentle rain, and know that your loved one is suffering no pain. There is nothing but happiness at the end. You know. That kind of thing. And you'll be with God in Heaven at the end. Always hope and joy at the end.

I believe in hope. I believe in the everlasting life that we will have. But I have a great deal of enjoyment for the life we have, okay? [Laughter]

MS. WILKES: He wouldn't have put us here and given us all of these things if we weren't meant to enjoy it, and to know how to enjoy it.

So I don't know if I answered your question or not.

MS. MORRIS: Yes, you did. [Laughter]
MS. WILKES: Okay.
MS. MORRIS: So what would you say is your most -- one of your most -- memorable experiences at St. Gabriel?
MS. WILKES: I've had a lot of memorable experiences, and some are rather dim in my memory. But I guess the most recent one would have to be a few Christmasses ago, 1994, Christmas of '94, at Midnight Mass, where they have readings, and sometimes they have Scripture readings and a hymn being sung, and then more Scripture readings. Someone reads something, and then a hymn is being read.

They read three of my poems, my Christmas poems, at Midnight Mass. That was just a joy to me. Because although they all know I write. I've had book signings around there. Many people have purchased the books that I've had for sale over the years. I've sung solos for various occasions.

All of those were nice, but they were not something that was so much a part of me as my own words being said to the congregation at one of the most celebrated of holy days, and that was the Midnight Mass. And I don't think anyone -- I don't know anybody really knows how much it affected me, 'til right now.

MS. MORRIS: Very nice.
MS. WILKES: Uh-huh.
MS. MORRIS: That was a great honor.
MS. WILKES: I tend to, you know, kind of take -- look like I take things for granted, okay? [Laughter]
MS. WILKES: But it was really -- it was really -- when I heard. I didn't read them myself, but someone else did, and they read "Cradle" -- "The Cradle Song," and then sang a hymn. And they read [inaudible] -- this is awful. [Laughter]
MS. WILKES: But at any rate, that was what really thrilled me, and to hear it, hear it being read by someone in church.
MS. MORRIS: Uh-huh.
MS. WILKES: "A Night of Wonder." That was the other one. It was called "A Night of Wonder."
MS. MORRIS: How long does it usually take you to create or compose your poems?
MS. WILKES: If I get an idea, I just sit down and write it. I don't rework it.
MS. MORRIS: Oh, okay.
MS. WILKES: These two, especially, are just the way I -- every now and then, if I don't have it printed up or it's not being included in a volume, I lay it aside, and maybe I'll look at it a year or so later, and I see something. "Oh, I don't like that." And I'll change it. But basically, I just write them and go, and I can't say it takes five or ten minutes, but whatever length of time, when someone asks me to write a memorial, or In Memoriam for someone, or I just decide that I've just heard that John Jones died. He was really close to us. He was a wonderful person. And I just sit down and start writing.

And the words come. That's a game, where, like, I would say -- I don't know whether that's supposed to be ringing. [Telephone is ringing.]

MS. WILKES: That is what I'm saying when I write words to hymns. I feel words, and they come out. If you turn that off for a minute, I'll read you -- [Recording interruption]
MS. MORRIS: Okay. What do you see as the future of St. Gabriel's? Or you would like to see?
MS. WILKES: I would like to see more participation by the younger people. I would like to see the parish becoming a source of inspiration for people to know that here is the living spirit, right in our midsts.

People who come here, are worth something. They do something. They are part of something. They are the core of spirituality. And I want our young people to feel that they can contribute to that, and they can make the church become the center of social, as well as religious, life, by becoming a part of it.

Two of the young people that came to the lector group I had for the training session Saturday, are very nice, and both of them read well, and one is a student at Howard, and I spoke with her last night, because I was giving her an assignment to have. And I asked her how she felt about being part of the church.

She said that because she had been the first altar server -- female altar server -- she wanted to go on and continue working within the church. And I told her how proud I was of that, and how, if as she knows other young people, she could get them interested in various ministries within the church that interests them.

I see the conservatism may be moving a little more to the side, as the older ones of us who are so conservative, kind of move on to the next world. [Laughter]

MS. WILKES: I see the church as being vibrant. And we can't do that without the support and cooperation of these conservatives today. We need to support the campaign that's coming up, that we are having, in order to revitalize the school and the church. And the whole plant.

We need to offer programs that will bring other people into the church, so that it's not -- it's not just confined to parishioners and community within the boundary--

MS. WILKES: We have often been told by visiting clergy, as well as visiting congregation, that we have a very beautiful structure. But I think we need to have more than that. We need to be more than just a beautiful edifice, a beautiful structure.

We need to be a beautiful part of the Washington community. We need to play a role in helping people discover who they are, and bring them closer to healing, to a healing spirit. Not necessarily physical healing.

But there are many people out there who need the healing power of belief and faith in someone, in some thing, through a particular place or person, and I'd like that place to be St. Gabriel.

MS. MORRIS: Okay. Thank you very much for your time.
MS. WILKES: Okay. Well, you wanted to see --

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