Black Catholic Ministries leaders attend National Black Catholic Congress

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Twenty-five members of the diocesan Black Catholic Ministries were among more than 2,000 people who attended the 12th National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando in early July. Speakers from the diocese included Deacon Al Anderson Jr., and Phyllis and Anthony Johnson. The theme of the event was “The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me: Act justly, love goodness and walk humbly with your God.”

Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Ill., elaborated on the theme during his keynote presentation.

“I give you these imperatives: Listen, learn, think, act and pray," he said. “African-American Catholics need to get into real conversations with others in the community about this history so we can grow by means of knowledge."

Deacon Anderson, chairman of the diocesan Black Catholic Ministries, said the congress was a celebration of black spirituality. “There was no separation between the clergy and laity,” he said. “Everyone was together and supporting everyone.” Priests and bishops participated in the workshops, which included a pro-life workshop led by Deacon Anderson.

A preamble to the pastoral plan of action was issued at the end of the event, though the final plan to guide people for the next five years will not be released until the fall. The pastoral plan lists concrete actions to implement the theme of the congress. It offers guidelines and resources, and serves as a focal point of core elements in the faith lives of black Catholics.

The principles include seeking leadership in the church on all levels; promoting the causes for canonization of five women and men being considered for sainthood; acting justly by living in proximity with those who are suffering and neglected; loving goodness through sharing faith in creative ways; and walking humbly by affirming the universal call to holiness in all forms of vocations in the church.

Veronica Dabney, a parishioner of Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Arlington, attended seminars on social justice, mass incarceration, disparate sentencing and racism. She said her parish tries to have conversations about these issues. She appreciated the speakers, including Bishop Braxton and Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. Dabney is writing about the congress for her parish newsletter, “The Advocate.”

Dabney wants to learn more about diocesan prison ministry and believes that people in the diocese need to get more engaged after attending a presentation, “The Unrest in Ferguson: Archdiocese of St. Louis — Best Practices and Lessons Learned.” I. Lynn Squires, board president of the St. Charles Lwanga Center, the St. Louis Archdiocese's Office of Black Catholic Ministries, presented the session.

Dabney has seen some engagement in the community through parish outreach programs, but would like to be more engaged in evangelization.

Members of the Black Catholic Ministries are meeting in small groups and will host a day of unity and reflection Nov. 18, where they will share reflections about the national congress.

“Now we have work to do,” said Deacon Anderson. “We will continue to get together to implement the suggestions that came out and continue to be missionary disciples, carrying out the theme of walking humbly with our God.” 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

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