PROVIDENCE — Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has appointed Linda A’Vant-Deishinni to serve as coordinator of the diocesan Black Catholic Ministry Office effective Nov. 1.
A’Vant-Deishinni, who will serve in the new position while continuing to serve as director of the diocesan St. Martin de Porres Center, succeeds Patty January, the former head of the Black Catholic Ministry Office who retired this past summer.
“The Office of Black Catholic Ministry fulfills a very significant role in the life of our diocesan Church, now as much as ever,” Bishop Tobin said in his letter of appointment.
In making his appointment, the bishop commended A’Vant-Deishinni for her key role in developing a Strategic Plan for the Office of Black Catholic Ministry, and in doing so he noted that the continued implementation of that plan will be one of the primary tasks of the Office.
“The Church is greatly blessed by your dedicated leadership and service,” Bishop Tobin said, assuring her of his personal and prayerful support for her work in both the Black Catholic Ministry Office and at the St. Martin de Porres Center.
A’Vant-Deishinni told Rhode Island Catholic she was honored to be appointed by Bishop Tobin to lead the Office of Black Catholic Ministry, especially with her appointment coming during the November celebration of Black Catholic History Month, which traditionally would be celebrated at one of the diocese’s local churches.
Black Catholic History Month was recognized by the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus in 1990, in honor of St. Augustine’s birthday and the Feast of St. Martin de Porres.
A’Vant-Deishinni has had a long connection to the ministry of the Office, one which began many years ago under the directorship of Lois Tabella and continued under Patty January. During the past few years she has served as president of the Advisory Committee.
“I plan to continue working with the Advisory Committee to build upon the extraordinary work done by my predecessors, while seeking ways to bring some of our Black Catholics back to the Church,” A’Vant-Deishinni said.
“One of my goals will be to see Black Catholics more visible in their own parishes, the diocese and in the community by creating programs which share their rich culture and heritage.”
This renewed mission to increase evangelization and promote inclusion to the diaspora of the Black Catholic community came in response to Pope Francis’ “Call for the Conversion of the Church in our Time.”
The Strategic Plan developed by A’Vant-Deishinni and the Advisory Committee offers suggested guidelines for priests, lay ministers and parish assistants in fostering pastoral care to the varied ethnic communities within many unique parishes throughout Rhode Island.
“The Office of Black Catholic Ministry through the Strategic Plan will continue to promote opportunities for the inclusion of Black Catholics in the life and mission of parishes and agencies in the Diocese of Providence,” A’Vant-Deishinni said.
“The plan serves as a set of guidelines to assist parish priests, deacons, pastoral assistants, parish leaders, lay ministers, youth and young adult groups seeking to invest in the mission of creating a vibrant faith experiences with our diverse communities.”
It encourages parishioners to undertake leadership positions in lay ecclesial ministries, and it also encourages the promotion of opportunities for faith formation and leadership trainings at all levels in local parishes and communities throughout the diocese.
A’Vant-Deishinni was appointed by Bishop Tobin to lead the St. Martin de Porres Center in the spring of 2019.
It was a moment of great significance to her as it brought her life full circle.
“It was like Our Lord was praying for me,” she said, joyed to be leading a diocesan organization that her family had supported when she was a child, despite their own meager means.
In moving into her office at St. Martin de Porres she chose to hang on the wall near her desk a photo of the center’s founder, the late Father Anthony Robinson.
“Poverty so inspired the work he was doing, and my parents would bring clothes up here that could be used to help others,” she said.
A’Vant-Deishinni graduated from the University of Rhode Island, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She went on to earn a certificate in Public Administration and training at the Smithsonian Institute in Museum Administration.
In the fall of 2016, she became a master trainer for Powerful Tools for Caregivers. She has also served as an active member of numerous committees that benefit seniors and caregiver in the state, including the Division of Elderly Affairs Home and Community Care Advisory Committee, the Caregiver Alliance of Rhode Island, Senior Agenda and the Congressional Senior Advisory Council.
Prior to coming to the diocese she was the Museum Education Specialist for Brown University’s Haffenreffer Museum in Bristol until it closed.
A’Vant-Deishinni and her husband, artist Munir Deishinni Mohammed, have two grown daughters, Katia and Kimiko.