Love of family draws them to Catholic faith

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St. Benedict the Moor members talk about their involvement

Phil Taylor
Associate Editor

Four generations of the Davis family agree being active in the life of the church has been a significant and fulfilling aspect of their lives.

For more than 50 years, Elsie Moore has been a member of parishes in Pittsburgh's Hill District. She and other members of her family currently are parishioners of St. Benedict the Moor.

Born in Pittsburgh, she spent a portion of her early youth in Steubenville, Ohio. In 1950, at the age of 21, she married her husband, Samuel Dixon Moore. By the early 1960s she and Sam had built a family of three sons and one daughter.

Residents of the Hill District, she said by the time her children had reached the ages of 9 and 10, the couple enrolled them in the former St. Richard School on Webster and Bedford avenues in the Upper Hill. She still recalls the principal at the time, "Sister Augustus," a Sister of St. Joseph. During that period the Sisters of St. Joseph staffed and ran the grade school.

As her children became more a part of the local Catholic community, Elsie and a close friend, Carolyn Lee, decided to take religious instructions under Msgr. Raymond Must. They wanted to officially join the faith. It wasn't long before Elsie got her wish and became a full member of St. Richard Parish.

Elsie was involved in several parish organizations, including volunteering at St. Richard School for a number of years. She was also on the original board of the Black Catholic Ministries and Layman's Council when it was formed by the Diocese of Pittsburgh in the early 1970s.

Today, she is still involved with a coffee ministry every Sunday at the early liturgy at St. Benedict.

"I am very proud of them," she said of her sons and daughter for remaining in church life. Her sons today are involved in various local Baptist congregations, while her daughter, Suzanne Moore-Davis, and her family are active members of St. Benedict. Elsie said she considers Suzanne's work on behalf of the church "outstanding."

Suzanne is a former special-education teacher for Pittsburgh Public Schools. She was employed for 31 years. A recent retiree, she graduated from the former St. Paul Cathedral High School in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood and later graduated from Duquesne University's School of Education. She and her husband, Charles James Davis -- their son is named Charles Lloyd Davis -- have been married for 30 years. The elder Charles has been a journeyman electrician since 1979 and is a member of Local 5 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The couple also have a daughter, Charelise, who is a graduate of Oakland Catholic High School and recent graduate of Michigan State University. She received a full track scholarship from the university, something that her father described as a "big blessing" for the entire family.

Charles Lloyd, also called "Little Chuck" by his family, is a graduate of Hiram College and is married to Lindsay. They have three children, Mariah Lyn, 9, Madison, 6, and a son, Charles Lloyd II, 3.

"The grandkids are being raised in the church. I don't know what more you can ask for. It's gratifying. I know things can be tough sometimes. It's great that we can all get together," said the elder Charles.

Suzanne is the parish CCD coordinator/director and has maintained close ties to St. Benedict the Moor Parish for most of her life. She said there was a period "when I looked at other churches when my son was born, but I came back. I never stopped going completely. I found St. Benedict more open and more caring."

She said the reason her children remain active in the church today is that she and her husband kept them involved. Suzanne pointed out that both children were altar servers when they were growing up. Today both sometimes help her with CCD on Sunday. Charles Lloyd is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and Charelise is a lector. Daughter-in-law Lindsay, also assists with the Sunday School program.

Suzanne credits her mother, Elsie, for her example in keeping the family grounded in the church. "We owe her everything," she said of her mother.

However, for husband Charles, the road to St. Benedict was a bit different, even though his immediate family had "always been Catholic."

It was when his mother, June, was dealing with Alzheimer's disease several years ago that things took a different path.

He was accustomed to taking his mother to the Church of God in the city's East End when her pastor died. Her pastor had been battling illness for some time.

When the minister died, Charles' mother surprisingly said to him, "That's all for me. I'm going with Suzanne to her church."

Not a regular churchgoer at the time, he said, "When she made that decision, I couldn't see myself just leaving her with Suzanne. I didn't think it was fair."

Charles said that after a period of time his mother desired to join the Catholic Church. Although she suffered diminishing mental capacities, the former St. Benedict pastor, Father Carmen D'Amico, understood her desire to join the church and took the appropriate measures.

"She was very happy," he said. Although she has died since, Charles said he still remains grateful for the priest's actions.

Charles James Davis said that being at the church on a more regular basis had its effects.

"As you know, if you listen to the word long enough, you know that the preaching may be directed to you. I couldn't see the point in joining another church while my whole family is going to St. Benedict. I always thought St. Benedict has always been good to my wife and kids," he said.

About three years ago, he began taking RCIA classes, and today he joins the rest of the family in the Catholic faith.

The elder Charles said he is from a family of musicians and vocalists. He even belonged to a family choral group known as The Gift of Song.

Once the folks at the church heard him sing, he has been singing in the choir for four or five years.

"It's something I really like doing. It's very enriching, the people seem to enjoy it," he added.

Elsie Moore said she is proud of her several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Of her long association with St. Benedict, she said, "It's a good family church. And I love my family."