About the Congress XII Mural

Enzo Selvaggi is a Californian artist and designer who led the team of artists that produced the mural of the Black Madonna placed in the Liturgy Room for the 2017 NBCC.

The mural is painted in the Beuronese style, and when Enzo was asked why he chose to do so, he replied, “The Beuronese style offers a special opportunity for sacred art in the New Evangelization because it proposes a universal compositional substructure of harmony, rhythm, and symmetry.  Upon this substructure a fluid hieratic symbolism can be seamlessly grafted. That symbolism can take many forms, focusing on a particular doctrinal, historic, cultural, or ethnic perspective.” Enzo added, “The Beuronese style is named named after the Benedictine Abbey in Beuron, Germany and was developed by a monk, Desiderius Lentz, at the end of the 19th century.”

In the mural for the National Black Catholic Congress of 2017, a heavenly court of representative Black saints is the focus.  Men and women of varied hue, tongue, nation and era are depicted as they worship the Christ child, Himself enthroned in the loving and nurturing embrace of the Blessed Virgin, the Seat of Wisdom. The words, “she took up the garments of joy” calls to mind the book of Judith, in that great song of praise for the redemption of the children of Israel -- proclaiming their freedom from  the bonds of a cruel and powerful opressor.

Enzo also described the persons represented in the mural, aside from the Madonna, “as the depicted saints who come from divers states of life, many are canonized, some are blessed, and some are neither -- underscoring the universal call to holiness which the Church has communicated to her children since her founding, and reiterated emphatically by the Second Vatican Council.” Some notable persons would be: St. Charles Lwanga and Venerable Henriette Delille among those officially recognised by Rome. Daniel Rudd, Thea Bowman and Cyprian Davis help represent those who are well known for their holiness and contribution to the Church, but not yet officially.

EJI gives children sentenced to life in prison without parole another option

By NBCC Staff | photos from www.EJI.org

“Fourteen states in the United States have no minimum age for trying children as adults. Children as young as eight have been prosecuted as adults.”  (All Children Are Children, EJI publication, p. 5).

In an interview with Jennifer Taylor, Staff Attorney with Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a nonprofit, privately-held human rights organization, it became tragically apparent that the injustices of mass incarceration and excessive punishment within the justice system in the United States are not limited to young adults and adults of color. Incredibly, children under the age of 18 – many between the ages of 12 to 14, and as noted above, some as young as age eight – have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The work of EJI began in the 1980’s as the organization identified inmates who had been wrongfully convicted due to ineffective representation. EJI offered legal assistance to those who had been sentenced to execution in an effort to have the cases retried. Alabama has the highest rate of juvenile death-sentences, and EJI has interceded on behalf of many children facing execution in that state. In 2005, the Supreme Court “banned the execution of juveniles” and the death sentence was no longer imposed on children 17 and under (All Children Are Children, p. 16).

The EJI website lists thirteen states that currently have no minimum age for prosecuting a child as an adult: Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Although children receive protections in every other area of the law due to the recognized deficiencies in their ability to reason and identify consequences (i.e., child labor laws, legal drinking age, driving restrictions, etc.) these states can impose harsh penal sentences leaving these children vulnerable to physical, sexual, and mental abuse (http://eji.org/news/13-states-lack-minimum-age-for-trying-kids-as-adults).

Another focus of EJI is to eliminate the inhumane issues connected to prison internment. These include physical abuse, sexual abuse, and inadequate access to healthcare including psychological health. In the case of incarcerated children, they “have very limited experience managing their disabilities, anxieties, fears, and trauma” (All Children Are Children, p.12). This may result in behavior that is seen as impulsive or reckless, and these children are given additional punishments that are more detrimental to their mental health.

Taylor recounted one of EJI’s juvenile cases that centered on Evan, a boy who was physically and emotionally abused to the point of attempting suicide at age 5. At age 14, Evan and another youth were given drugs and alcohol by a man, who then attempted to grab Evan. Evan and the other youth hit the man with a bat and set fire to his trailer, resulting in the man’s death by smoke inhalation. Evan was “sentenced to die in prison in Alabama without any consideration of his age or the abuse he suffered throughout his short life” (p. 26).

The case went to the Supreme Court in March 2012 after being petitioned by EJI. EJI argued “sentencing kids to life in prison without parole is cruel and unusual punishment” (p.25) as well as a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court held that such sentences for children convicted of homicide and under the age of 17 were unconstitutional, and more importantly, gave judges the ability to impose less severe judgements. The Court did not ban life without parole sentences for juveniles, however, but required judges imposing sentences to consider the lack of rational reasoning in children in addition to their capacity to change as they mature. The court further stated that these considerations should lessen the incidences of such harsh sentences (p. 27).

EJI is currently working on 90 active cases in Alabama, petitioning the courts for retrial and reduction of the life in prison without parole sentences imposed on these juveniles, and Taylor estimates that there are a total of 2,500 such active cases across the United States. She maintains that in order for EJI to successfully represent these children in court, it is imperative for the community to get involved. If the public is aware that such harsh sentences have been imposed on children, they are more likely to become involved in petitioning their local legislators for policy changes, and insisting that judges who sentence juveniles are held accountable for the harsh punishments they impose. Taylor said that if the community is not involved, the same judges who imposed the initial life sentence will sit on the retrial and are not likely to lessen the severity of the sentence; it is only through the intercession of the public that the judges will recognize the injustice that is meted out to children in the court system.

In order to eliminate the incidences of rape, and physical and mental abuse imposed upon children by other prisoners and guards, EJI is advocating for a federal policy that juveniles under the age of 18 not be housed with adults. Such policies do exist at this time, however, they are advisories that do not have to be followed. EJI is working to make these policies more enforceable.

In addition to providing legal assistance on a case-by-case basis to children facing life in prison, EJI is striving to recognize the victims of lynching by building a national memorial in Montgomery, Alabama.

“Between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African Americans were lynched in the United States” (Lynching in America: A Community Remembrance Project, p. 1). EJI has identified over 4,000 racially-motivated lynchings, which imposed a “fearful environment in which racial subordination and segregation were maintained.” This racial inequality continues today and can only be eliminated when all people are educated about the murders and racial injustices that were allowed to occur.For more information about the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), the programs and initiatives mentioned above, and more importantly, how you can help, please go to: https://eji.org/.



16. Mother Mary Theodore Williams (with the distinctive pectoral cross of the original habit
17. Venerable Henriette Delille (with the Cord of the Seven Sorrows of St. Joseph worn of the original habit)
18. St. Josephine Bakhita (with the distinctive bonnet of the Canossian Sisters)
19. Father Augustus Tolton
20. Father Cyprian Davis
21. Venerable Pierre Toussaint

Meet Fr. Tolton face-to-face in this exciting new multimedia theater production based on the amazing true story of Fr. Augustus Tolton, the first African American priest. Be riveted by his dramatic escape from slavery, encouraged by his struggle against prejudice, and transformed by his message of reconciliation and hope.

Fr. Tolton's canonization cause is monumental - he could become the first African American saint! 

You can bring Tolton to your community!
Contact Saint Luke Productions to see how your group
can experience this wonderful drama.

Visit www.ToltonDrama.com to learn more.

The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me: act justly, love goodness, and walk humbly with your God.

The National Black Catholic Congress | 320 Cathedral St. Baltimore, MD 21201 | 410-547-8496
© 2017 The National Black Catholic Congress, All Rights Reserved

About the artist and the concept for the mural 

And, of course, our founder!

​​Key to the Mural's Important Black Catholics

A. The Madonna and Child
B. Angel of the Passion bearing Shackles
C. Angel of of the Passion bearing the Door of Goree Island

1. Saint Peter Claver (with Jesuit Cape)
2. Saint Charles Lwanga (with Palm of Martyrdom and Kufi-Crowm
     of Martyrdom)
3. Julia Greeley (with whip that tore out her right eye)
4. Daniel Rudd
5. Mother Mary Lang (with original bonnet of the Oblate Sisters
    of Providence habit)
6. Saint Katherine Drexel
7. Father John Plantevigne
8. Roberto Clemente
9. Sister  Thea Bowman
10. Archbishop James Lyke (with Mitre)
11. King Afonso of the Congo (with crown)
12. Jemmy, aka, Cato of Stono River (with Rosary in hand)
13. Saint Martin de Porres
14. Mother Ursula of Jesus (with Rosary necklace)
15. Bishop Harold Perry (with Mitre)

We welcome your event submissions! Please email details of your upcoming events to nbcc@nbccongress.org.

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Congress XII Highlights

   Black Catholic News Click photo

"Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" "Here I am," I said, "Send me!" Isaiah 6:8

Saint Luke Productions Presents


October 2017


In light of the theme of the XII National Black Catholic Congress, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: act justly, love goodness, and walk humbly with your God", we, the delegates of the Pastoral Plan of Action, propose the following as Pastoral Priorities:

• We believe the Holy Spirit, who is Lord and Giver of Life, is upon us. Because of this, we recommit ourselves to live our Baptism as Catholics, be "authentically Black and truly Catholic" and seek leadership in our Church on all levels.

• We commit ourselves to promote the causes for canonization of the five holy women and men being considered for sainthood in our Church.

• We commit ourselves to act justly by living in proximity with those who are suffering and neglected. Specifically, we seek to promote the dignity and life of everyone person from the unborn to natural death. We commit ourselves to dismantle racism in all forms, which is an obstacle to justice and evangelization. We also commit ourselves to address the challenges of mental illness, mass incarceration, domestic violence and others.

• We commit ourselves to love goodness by sharing our Faith with others using creative ways, especially social media, as we evangelize in our community. We commit ourselves to support our Catholic Schools in our community.

• We commit ourselves to walk humbly with our God and affirm the universal call to holiness as it is lived out in all forms of vocations in our Church – marriage, single life, consecrated women and men and 

• We commit ourselves to listen and respond to the needs of the youth and young adults in our community as we pass on this legacy of our Faith.

• We commit to align these priorities with the outcomes of the Convocation of Catholic Leaders as "missionary disciples" called to spread the joy of the Gospel.

• Finally, we commit ourselves to apply these priorities on the local diocesan, regional and national level and review them on a yearly basis.

Given at Congress XII
July 9, 2017 – XIV Sunday of Ordinary Time

July 2017

07/06 - 07/09

We loved seeing you, worshipping with you, having fellowship with you, and learning about the issues we face.

Most of all we indeed felt that "The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me: act justly, love goodness, and walk humbly with your God."

We thank our amazing speakers: Peter Kodwo Cardinal Turkson, Bryan Stevenson, Bishop Edward Braxton, Fr. Maurice Emelu, and Dr. Tricia Bent-Goodley, and we appreciate the hard work and preparation by all of our workshop presenters.

Thank you for making this a most memorable event!

Bryan Stevenson

Founder and Executive Director
of Equal Justice Initiative

Detail of Mother Mary Lange, shown in the bonnet of the Oblate Sisters of Providence.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

          With profound gratitude, I write to express my thanks to those who worked on behalf of, or those who came to be counted among, the attendees of the National Black Congress XII event which took place in Orlando, Florida from 6-9 July 2017.
          This historical gathering of Black Catholics and those who minister within the African American Apostolate was an outstanding witness and affirmation of our Catholic faith and of our faith in each other.  The response to the call to once more meet as a group of Black Catholics was heartwarming, and the response embodied through the presence of so many of you was overwhelming. I received many comments from attendees who expressed joy and gratitude at seeing so many present and had the satisfaction of hearing both their hopes and wishes, as well as their challenges and concerns, addressed and shared with many like minded brothers and sisters from all over the country.
          I wish to express my personal thanks to the NBCC staff, especially Valerie Washington and Kimberley Hefner, as well as the dozens of volunteers who gave generously of their time and efforts for many months of discussion and planning to bring this event about.  These included not only experts in music and liturgy from almost all parts of the United States, but also Ralph McCloud and Donna Grimes of the USCCB, who helped in the development of social policies and programs; Sr. Callista Robinson and Sr. Patricia Chappell, both offering their expertise in education; and Fr. Raymond Harris and Sr. Gwynette Proctor, who convened to help develop an agenda, which was by all measures, well received and welcomed. To all of them I am profoundly grateful.
          I would like to highlight some numbers which illustrate the level of success which the participants enjoyed.    
          There were over 2000 registered participants. Of that number:

  • 221 were youth, ages 14-17; 107 dioceses were represented;
  • Attendees included one cardinal, 18 bishops, four archbishops, 123 priests, 45 deacons, seven seminarians, seven religious brothers, and 41 religious sisters.
  • There were 26 workshops, including adult and youth tracks.
  • There were five retreats for different groups, including one for priests, one for religious women, one for laywomen, one for laymen, and one for deacons.          

          A separate track was held for youth, and was directed by Howard Roberts and emceed by Seminarian Kingsley Ogbuji.
          The event was featured in reports by the Catholic News Service, and was subsequently picked up by most diocesan newspapers.
          Highlights of the event also included special greetings from Pope Francis to Congress XII attendees presented by the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who was present for the entire event.  
          We were also blessed by the keynote address of His Eminence, Peter Kodwo Cardinal Turkson, head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and President of the Vatican Office of Justice and Peace, who also was present during the entire event.
          I offer special thanks to Fr. Claude Williams, a Norbertine priest of the Diocese of Orange, California, for his efforts in originating the concept, creation, and development of the beautiful mural that hung above the altar during the on-site liturgies. Information about the art and its availability will soon be available on the NBCC webpage.
          While most of us were enjoying the many features of the Congress event, Fr. Steven Thorne, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was quietly meeting with a select group of Congress participants chosen beforehand by their bishops. They were set with the task of developing the framework of a Pastoral Plan, which they will continue to develop and which will be available in a few months.       
          Before and during the event Ms. Tonya Dorsey of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia worked tirelessly in developing the musical program, composed of a variety of musical genres, including the contributions of most contemporary, as well as classical, African American and African Catholic composers and musicians.  Ms. Dorsey also developed and conducted a mass choir which greatly enriched the entire experience.
          In this time following Congress XII, it will be up to us to respond to those challenges that were laid out for us by the keynote speakers and the workshop presenters, and through the soon-to-be-completed Congress XII Pastoral Plan.
          In his address to us, Pope Francis urges “that the Congress … confirm[s] America’s Black Catholics in their evangelical commitment to the pursuit of justice and human dignity, while encouraging a deeper reflection on our common baptismal calling to be missionary disciples, sent to the farthest reaches of society to draw hearts and souls to the transforming love of Christ the Savior.”
          Again, my deepest thanks to everyone who made this event one which, I am confident, will be enshrined in our memory for years to come.

​Very sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop John Ricard, SSJ
Bishop Emeritus Pensacola Tallahassee
President, The National Black Catholic Congress

Detail of the Christ child enthroned in the loving and nurturing embrace of the Blessed Virgin.

Mural designer and artist, Enzo Selvaggi and his family pictured standing next to Bishop Joseph Perry.

Our Mother of Africa Chapel

20th Anniversary of the Dedication

Event sponsored by the Basilica of the National Shrine

of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC

Sunday, September 17, 2017

1:30 PM - Rosary  |  2:00 PM - Mass

Bishop John Ricard, SSJ - Celebrant

​St. Augustine Catholic Church Gospel Choir

to be held at

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Washington, DC - Upper Church

Please pardon us as we regroup...

Our list of upcoming events will be updated in August. We would love to include your parish activities, upcoming organizational conferences, or arch/diocesan events. Please email your information to: nbcc@nbccongress.org and include a pdf of your flier, advertisement, or logo for us to include.

Congress XII Prayer Cards

You asked for the prayer cards that were included in the Congress XII conference bags, and we are happy to provide you with the PDF files and give permission for you to print and distribute them to others in your organizations, arch/dioceses, or parishes.

Click here to visit the Congress XII Page  for more highlights, news and videos

From the President
​of the NBCC

Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ

Detail of Fr. Augustus Tolton, recognized as the first African American priest in the United States.

The National Black Catholic Congress, Inc.

Calendar of Events​​

The National Black Catholic Men's Conference will be held in Miami, Florida, from October 5-8, 2017. The theme of this year's conference is: "The Challenge is to Silence the Mind." Register at: www.bowmanfrancisministry.com. The cost is $150.00 for adults, $75.00 for College and High School Students, and $50.00 for youth ages 8-13.

​More information is available by contacting Fr. Chester Smith at www.Gamba10333@aol.com or 317-259-0144. Or visit: http://bit.ly/2nbcZjO

Mr. Bryan Stevenson, Esq., presented the keynote address titled, "Love Mercy and Do Justice: Confronting Mass Incarceration, Racial Bias and Poverty", at Congress XII. We have received many requests for more information about Mr. Stevenson and about the initiatives of his non-profit corporation, Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).

The following article presents information about the critical work EJI is currently undertaking. Please go to the EJI website, https://eji.org/ for more information about these initiatives and how you can help. 

The Twelfth National Black Catholic Congress Prayer, composed by Bishop Fernand Cheri

Order a copy of Bryan's recent book, Just Mercy

from Amazon.com

fromBarnes & Noble

Click cover image to preview book.


Thursday, 10/5 through Sunday, 10/8/17
The National Black Catholic Men's Conference 2017