Jacqueline E. Wilson, a resident of the Diocese of Wilmington and a prominent member of several organizations for Black Catholics, died Jan. 8 at Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care Center in Wilmington. She was 83.
Wilson was a member of St. Helena Parish in Wilmington and an active member of the Knights of Peter Claver. She held positions in several groups in the Diocese of Wilmington and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where she was born.
Wilson was appointed by Saint Pope John Paul II in 1997 as an observer and speaker at the Synod on Evangelization in the Americas in Rome, and she joined other Black Catholic leaders on a trip to South Africa for a conference with South African women.
She served as a charter board member and officer of the first Black Catholic Secretariat in the Archdiocese of Washington in 1973 and of the National Association of Black Catholic Administrators from 1974-2002. From 1979-2002 she was the executive director of the Office of Black Catholics for the archdiocese. She talked about that experience with The Dialog in 2013.
“That in itself is very encouraging and empowering, that my own peers and various leaders would ask me to become the director of the office for black Catholics. And I stayed for 23 years,” she said, working under three cardinals, Baum, Hickey and McCarrick.
“We started a liturgy conference,” she continued. “It provided a means to begin experimenting with different adaptations and different cultural adaptations of the liturgy. At the time, they were encouraging us to do that. I served on all kinds of committees.”
Wilson told The Dialog that her experience with Catholicism dated back to her days as a student at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, which she attended. She and her two sisters, were Episcopalians, among the few non-Catholics there. The religious sisters who operated St. Frances had such a great impact on her that she decided she wanted to be Catholic.
Her mother was supportive, but she wanted to make sure her daughter was fully committed to the faith.
“One of the things she told me when I wanted to be a Catholic — I was 15 years old – she said, ‘Do you believe in what the church teaches because the Catholic Church is a way of life? If you believe then you commit yourself to it,’” she said.
In addition, she was an elementary school teacher, tutor, parish council member and officer, catechist, and college instructor. She held leadership positions in the National Black Catholic Congress and the African American Catholic Evangelizations Conference, and she was a published author. She was a graduate of the Catholic University of America.
She moved to Delaware in 2004 at the request of one of her daughters who had moved to the First State. Wilson was a lector and was involved with parish social ministry at St. Helena’s.
She is survived by four children, 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Augustine Church in Washington. She will be buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in the district.