The idea for the Before Gethsemane Initiative started in the aftermath of several events including the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020. Maria and Chenele perceived a need for a Catholic response to racial tensions from an understanding of the inherent dignity of the human person. We hope the efforts of the Before Gethsemane Initiative help to provide healing to those suffering from wounds related to racism and xenophobia and inspire prayer, fasting and conversion so that we can work towards racial reconciliation with Our Lord leading the way.
The name of our organization, the Before Gethsemane Initiative (BGI), refers to Jesus’ prayer for unity and conversion before He leaves for the Garden of Gethsemane as written in the Gospel of John, Chapter 17. The mission of BGI is to promote racial reconciliation, healing and awareness about racism and xenophobia from an understanding of the inherent dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.
Fidelity to the Church
At BGI, we completely affirm the fullness of the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. All those involved in a public position with BGI sign a fidelity statement that they completely adhere to the Church’s teachings on all issues.
Who we are
Responding to the Call
Combining prayer and fasting with racial sensitivity training from the framework of Catholic social doctrine
Opportunities for Healing
We provide a space for Catholics of color to find community in the Church at a national level and provide them with opportunities for spiritual and psychological healing from the wounds of racism.
Call to Conversion
We call all Catholics to conversion to turn from the sins of racism and xenophobia.
Meet Our Team
Meet the amazing people who make this work
Prior to pursuing her doctoral degree, Maria served as a missionary for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), followed by a couple years as a high school youth minister at Pius X High School in Lincoln, NE. She and her husband, Mitch, have three children: Gemma (9), Gerard (6) and Morgan Frances (their baby saint in Heaven). She loves the Eucharist, spending time with her family, coffee with friends and traveling. Maria looks forward to advocating for the inherent dignity of every human person and bridging the political divide with our Lord at the center.
In addition to serving with BGI, he serves on the Board of Directors for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Catholic Charities Young Professionals Board, and the Board of Directors of the Seeds of Justice Network. He is also active as a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus and in his local St. Vincent de Paul Society. He has published poetry and writing in America’s Future, America Magazine, the River Bluff Review, the Catholic Courier, and Black Catholic Messenger. He was named the recipient of the 2020 Cardinal Bernardin Award for New Leadership by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.His patron saints are St. Martin De Porres and St. Louis IX, King of France. His primary vocation is as a husband and father of two.
Santonio grew up as a cradle Catholic, however his faith was not much of a priority. His interests geared more towards sports and the arts. He took an unforeseen turn after high school to pursue seminary. While in seminary, Santonio had his first deep encounter with the Lord and ultimately, a great conversion. Before his current position with Vagabond, Santonio was a Theology teacher, FOCUS missionary, and Urban outreach specialist in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Santonio and his wife Kristen were recently married this past August on the feast of the transfiguration. When Santonio is not working you can find him working on his poems and playing basketball.
Fr. Sands work focuses on supporting ministry programs for African American Catholics and Native American Catholics in dioceses across the United States. He travels throughout the year visiting parishes, schools, diocesan ministry offices and national African American and Native American Catholic organizations. Fr. Sands has a strong interest in strengthening the Catholic schools that serve African American and Native American communities, as well as the evangelization outreach and ministry programs for the two communities.