By Niraj Warikoo
Free Press Staff Writer
Bishop Moses Anderson, the first and only African-American bishop in the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, died Tuesday after having a heart attack. He was 84.
Bishop Anderson was ordained as an auxiliary (assistant) bishop in 1983, serving initially under Cardinal Edmud Szoka, then head of the archdiocese. Bishop Anderson served for 20 years as a bishop until retiring in 2003.
“He was unfailingly generous,” said Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron. “We will miss him greatly.”
Bishop Anderson’s appointment 30 years ago was heralded in Detroit, a city with the largest percentage of African Americans among major U.S. cities. African Americans made up a small percentage of Catholics in the archdiocese, but their numbers grew over the decades. Bishop Anderson became one of six assistants to Szoka.
He “was a deeply spiritual and holy bishop,” recalled Cardinal Adam Maida, head of the Archdiocese of Detroit from 1990 to 2009. “He was a very faithful and dedicated churchman. … He was particularly dedicated in his concern and love for the poor and their struggle for justice and peace.”
During his ministry, Bishop Anderson oversaw areas that included 63 churches in the archdiocese, church officials said. From 1992 to 2001, he was pastor at Precious Blood Parish in Detroit, which has since merged with St. Peter Claver Parish.
Bishop Anderson visited the African nation of Ghana several times and, in 1990, was named as a tribal chief of the Ashanti tribe.
“I tell young (African-American) people, you must not forget the blood of kings and queens flows in your veins,” Bishop Anderson told the Free Press after the chief ceremony.
Born in Selma, Ala., Bishop Anderson attended the Edmundite College of St. Michael’s in Winooski, Vt., and St. Edmund Seminary in Burlington, Vt. He was ordained a priest in 1958.
When he was appointed bishop in 1983, he said: “I’m not a messiah and not about to be swept along by a tide. I work quietly and, I hope, effectively. I don’t have any studied arrogance, presuming to know all the answers. My whole style is to do what needs to be done without a lot of fanfare.”
According to an article by Catholic News Service, one of his first significant speeches after becoming bishop was on race. Speaking in 1983 in Brooklyn, N.Y., Bishop Anderson “warned that the United States was going backwards on race relations after years of improvement,” the article said.
Bishop Anderson enjoyed gardening, playing guitar, gourmet cooking and also did Zen Buddhist meditation. He loved the arts and donated much of his personal collection to several Catholic colleges and universities across the U.S.
“He would often sing a hymn with his wonderful voice during his sermons,” Szoka said.
Bishop Anderson will lie in repose at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, 9844 Woodward Ave., Detroit, 2-8:30 p.m. Sunday with a vigil service at 7 p.m. Visitation will continue 10 a.m. Monday until his funeral mass at 11 a.m.
He is survived by his brother Woodrow Williams and several nieces and nephews.
Contact Niraj Warikoo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-223-4792