THE FIRST-EVER SURVEY OF AFRICAN
Bishop John Ricard describes our Church as
hemorraghing with exiting Catholics. The Church hasn't figured out why people
leave or why others stay. Particularly for the Black Catholic community in the
United States, we simply lack data. The Gallup Poll of Catholics in 2005 (the
most recent poll of Catholics available from the Association of Religion Data
Archives) had only 27 African American Catholics in its sample-not enabling any
statistically meaningful conclusions about our community's views, concerns, or
The Board of NBCC has decided to take the lead on
this matter and find out what parishes can do to engage African Americans in
The board has approved a project to carry out an
unprecedented empirical study of Black Catholics in the United States with the
goal of finding out: What do we need to do to keep folks engaged in the Catholic
Church? We want to identify the reasons people leave the Church and the reasons
they stay. Our goal is to have the results of the survey in hand by late 2011,
so that the findings can guide Congress XI programming, speakers, and the
pastoral plan of action.
PLANNING TEAMS AT WORK
Congress XI is in 2012, but the NBCC staff and
our hosts in Indianapolis have been planning for months. NBCC staff handles
contracts with facilities and vendors and works with a national planning
team to develop the overall program--theme, speakers, schedule, etc. In
Indianapolis, Father Kenneth Taylor, Director of the Archdiocesan Office of
Multicultural Ministry, chairs the Local Leadership Team, which incorporates
the heads of sixteen on-site teams who plan and coordinate everything from
liturgy to transportation, entertainment, and emergency services. A great
deal of this work will take place during 2011.
CONGRESS OUTCOMES-THE PLAN OF ACTION
Two or three times during the five-year interim
between congresses, NBCC surveys diocesan offices to assess progress and
challenges in the implementation of the Pastoral Plan of Action from the
prior congress. In last year's report, we provided data on the first survey
regarding the current plan. NBCC's staff analyzed those findings and
reviewed all of the written comments. The NBCC's board then discussed the
results at great length. From that discussion, it was clear that we need to
finetune our goals for plans of actioin, but we did not reach conclusions
about what that finetuning would look like.
The Congress Movement has evolved and must do
so. The processes we used to develop an action plan for the first modern
congress, in 1987 (before e-mail, the Internet, or social networking changed
the ways we work and communicate), are not necessarily the best ones for
today. The Congress X Plan was created through a long deliberative process
in which eight commissions of expert volunteers, from around the country,
used an Appreciative Inquiry process to discern a set of strategies and
action steps for moving forward on eight core NBCC principles. This
comprehensive process resulted in a plan that was carefully crafted, but
perhaps too ambitious and wide-ranging, particularly in a time of tight
10 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO GET READY FOR CONGRESS XI
- Send a "Save the Date" message to your mailing list -- July 19-22, 2012.
- Promote the congress and date on your web page and/or Facebook page
- At budget time for 2012, budget for a Day of Reflection in early spring and for Black Catholic Ministry staff and teams to travel to Indianapolis in July.
- Meet with youth ministers to discuss long-term build-up to Congress, including fundraising for youth to travel to Indianapolis.
- Strategize how to engage young adults to make them aware of Congress XI. Find out what speakers, topics, or events might motivate them to attend and pass suggestions on to the congress Planning Committee in Baltimore.
- Schedule date and place for a Day of Reflection in Winter or Spring 2012 and get it on the diocesan calendar.
- Consider forming a Congress XI team for your diocese that will help your office with the work of promoting Congress attendance at parish or youth events, raising money if needed, organizing a Day of Reflection, etc.
- Schedule periodic Holy Hours, prayer services, or Rosaries for the intention of Congress XI. Pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance for the planning teams.
- Notify NBCC of any special talents in your diocese that the planning committee might want to consider for the program (evening entertainment; spectacular youth speakers; artists; etc.).
- Think about your experience working to implement past Pastoral Plans of Action in your diocese. What are the characteristics of a usable, helpful Plan? Send me suggestions about action plans or about topics and workshops you would like to see at Congress XI. Write to:
While the Black Catholic movement has always
esteemed the full participation and leadership of laity and religious
sisters, there is no escaping the fact that Catholicism (including our
Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation) require priests-and our Church
is not ordaining sufficient numbers to sustain herself.
Vocations are not
peripheral to the NBCC's mission. The shortage of vocations to the
priesthood is a primary cause of the painful parish closures and mergers
that so many Black Catholics have experienced.
The Catholic Church needs more vocations from
all demographic groups and every corner of the globe, yet the NBCC
recognizes a special need for the pastoral leadership of ordained men who
are attuned to the culture, norms, language, and issues of African American
life and of the Church in the USA. This was the focus of the "Stir into
STIR INTO FLAME: A SYMPOSIUM ON THE VOCATION TO
THE CATHOLIC PRIESTHOOD IN THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY
After more than a year of planning, the "Stir
into Flame" vocations symposium took place in early May, 2010 on the campus
of the University of Notre Dame. Seven bishops participated, including NBCC
board president John H. Ricard SSJ, and twenty priests and a permanent
deacon. One panel provided the perspective of students and a parent. The
priests included a mix of younger and older, diocesan and religious, pastors
and educators. We enjoyed strong support from Notre Dame's Institute for
Church Life, assistance from graduate students in theology, and hands-on
involvement by the university's Associate Provost and Vice President, Dr.
RESULTS AND NEXT STEPS
The current Black Catholic Newsletter (on the
nbccongress.org homepage) includes several articles in which participants
describe the event and its impact on them. I invite you to take a look.
The symposium concluded with assignments for
all. Three committees, each led by a young priest, are working this summer
to detail action steps to support vocations in the family, educational, and
community environments. Participants will reconvene at the University of
Notre Dame next May to assess progress and chart future steps.
The Congress X Pastoral Plan of Action calls for
the NBCC to create a "National Support Initiative to provide financial
assistance to efforts that will produce favorable results in sustaining
Catholic Education in and for the Black Community."
I am happy to report progress on this goal. In
June 2010, the NBCC Board approved establishiment of the NBCC Catholic
Education Foundation LLC and appointed a board of directors for the
foundation, chaired by Kathleen A. Merritt.
NEWS AND NOTES
- NBCC is now on FaceBook.
- The Black Catholic Newsletter comes out every other month. It is sent by electronic mail to over 6,000 subscribers and also appears as the front page of our website. The Newsletter includes calendars of events; news from NBCC; and notices of job or grant opportunities, but also articles by and for youth; articles on ministry and spirituality, and book reviews.
WAYS TO USE THE NEWSLETTER FOR YOUR MINISTRY
- Start a discussion with colleagues or parishioners, by commenting on
one of the articles and urging others to do so.
- Share your best practices, inspirations, or spiritual reflections with
others, by writing an article for the Newsletter. (Contact me to volunteer
yourself or to nominate someone else or to suggest a book to review or a
topic to cover.)
- Encourage your parishioners and members to subscribe to the Newsletter
(it's free), in order to connect with the national community of African
- Send news of forthcoming regional or national events (well in advance)
to me for posting on the website.
Over the years, our surveys of Black Catholic
Ministry offices have yielded requests for resources and supports to
facilitate ministries at the diocesan and parish levels. With travel budgets
cut dramatically, most church staff cannot afford to travel to training
conferences. So after several months of exploratory work to guage needs and
interests, the NBCC embarked this year on a new program, offering our
inaugural webinar on May 18, 2010.
Webinars have the potential to provide
convenient and affordable seminars about resources and best practices in
Black Catholic ministry. We hope too that this tool can be a way for people
around the country who share interest in a particular facet of ministry to
learn together from an experienced instructor, and then to continue the
"conversation" through our on-line NBCC discussion forums or our Facebook
The next Webinar will be later this fall, on the subject of Adult Faith Formation.
Subsequent topics under consideration include: Prison Ministry, Grant-Writing, and-in
line with Bishop Holley's concerns--something for youth and young adult
ministry about how to discuss Church teaching on marriage and contraception.
NBCC welcomes suggestions for topics and for
webinar instructors who are expert both in their field of ministry and their
presentation skills. (Presentation in a live webinar is an acquired skill
and some exceptional teachers and homilists are not necessarily comfortable
or effective with this medium, so audition and rehearsal are necessary.)
African American Catholic Youth Bible
NBCC is working with St. Mary's Press, publisher
of the popular Catholic Youth Bible to develop an
African American Catholic
Youth Bible. The project starts with the annotated New American Bible
approved by the USCCB and then adds text boxes directed to African American
youth to answer questions, put the scripture text in the context of their
lives, explain the connections between the text and Catholicism, and link
the text to African American heritage. We expect this Bible to become a
lasting resource for parishes, high schools, and campus ministry programs
and its artwork to provide a recognized new iconography for our community.
A team of writers (some scholars; some youth
ministers) began working more than a year ago to write the new commentaries
for every book of the Bible. An artist has been chosen to develop original
illustrations and a fresh graphic design. The project editor is a
distinguished Scripture scholar, Reverend James Chukwuma Okoye, C.S.Sp., a
faculty member at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Target date for
publication is March 2013.
The NBCC staff wishes to extend sincere and
heartfelt gratitude to the authors who have submitted articles for our
online black Catholic newsletter during this year. We appreciate the
sacrifice, love and time you put into developing these articles for our web
site viewers. We thank you and we appreciate you! You are truly laborers in
the vineyard for our Lord.
And to our web site viewers, thank you for
reading our newsletter. We pray for God's abundant blessings for you and
your family during the holy Christmas season; and we look forward to a
wonderful spirit-filled life in the Lord in 2011 for all of us!