The National Black Catholic Congress, Inc.
Standing next to the banner depicting Daniel Rudd, from left to right are Varia's mom, Valerie Grays, and Varia Alston.
CHARLOTTE — “It was lit!”
That’s how members of Our Lady of Consolation Church’s Youth In Action group described their experience at the 12th National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando, Fla., July 6-9.
The goal of congress attendees was to learn about issues impacting the African American community and then leave equipped with the tools necessary to serve and better our brothers and sisters. The event’s theme was “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: act justly, love goodness and walk humbly with God.”
The congress provided a particular opportunity for black Catholic teenagers from all over the United States to connect, learn and worship together. This had a huge impact as more than 200 teens gathered together – listening, learning, sharing and interacting with each other.
YIA members said they did not know what to expect before the congress, but they agreed that the experience would probably push them out of their comfort zone. By the end of the congress, they saw it as an eye-opening, extraordinary experience that sparked their faith and inspired them to more closely follow the teachings of Christ.
“I felt like I was a part of something – a big family, the Catholic family,” said YIA’s president, Devine Drummond. “It was a joyous, inspiring and exciting experience that united members of God’s black Catholic family.”
YIA members said the congress enlightened them in their Catholic faith, opening their eyes and minds to the importance of growing spiritually.
“It took us one step further into our journey with God,” said YIA member Christelle Mukoko.
Rosheene Adams, director of the Diocese of Charlotte’s African American Affairs Ministry, noted, “In today’s society, polarized by increases in racial violence and killings of unarmed blacks by police, we were all challenged to be true evangelizers, speak out against the social injustices of today and focus on people who are in need.
[080417 NBCC local comments] “We were encouraged to engage our youth, create leadership positions for them and foster ‘true’ collaboration between current and future leadership within our parishes.”
Adams said of all the speakers at the congress, one message particularly hit home: “Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Ill., urged everyone to ‘do something to know their history and to engage in their community.’ They must exercise their right to vote, participate in public life, run for public life and inspire young people to get involved. He left everyone with the requirement to ‘listen, learn, think, act and pray.’
“We (African American Catholics) need to get into real conversations with others in the community about our history so we can all grow in knowledge.”
Overall, their congress experience was a gateway to new knowledge, YIA members said.
They learned more about the exemplary life of Father Augustus Tolton, the first black priest in the United States; they learned about the liturgy of the Mass; and they attended discussion sessions designed specifically for the issues that young people face today.
Even though they shared many different views in some of the discussion sessions, they agreed that Jesus is always there to help them through their everyday challenges and struggles.
YIA members also expressed gratitude to those who made their trip to the National Black Catholic Congress possible, including the Diocese of Charlotte, pastor Father Carl Del Giudice and the members of Our Lady of Consolation Church.
— Amily James, Florence Okoro and Jackie Diouf, Special to the Catholic News Herald. Amily James, Florence Okoro and Jackie Diouf are members of Our Lady of Consolation Church’s Youth In Action group.
Congress XII Youth Track Attendees hanging with His Eminence, Peter Kodwo Cardinal Turkson!
OLC youth inspired after attending 12th National Black Catholic Congress
Youth Reflection on Congress XII from Ciara Vega-Strickland, Former St. Joseph parishioner, now living in Florida
[NBCC XII - July 6 - 9, 2017 - Photos by Phyllis L. Johnson 43]
“First I would like to thank Deacon Al Anderson, Jr. so much for inviting me to the conference. It was truly an amazing experience to see so many African Americans of all ages present. Of course you always hear “What, you are a black Catholic?” Felt good to not hear that for once.
I truly think this conference should be held more often so that we can help each other across the world. The sessions were great eye openers to things that are in front of us daily that we don’t always think about. I think the conference should be every 2-3 years, as so much can change over a 5 year period and I feel like we need to stay up-to-date on what’s happening now and live in the moments of time.
Out of the general sessions my favorite session would have to be “Love Mercy and Do Justice: Confronting Mass Incarceration, Racial Bias and Poverty.” by Bryan Stevenson. It was very eye opening since currently in Pensacola we have overcrowded jails with 30% of the inmates sleeping on the floors. I learned this after I came back home and started looking into how I can help the community I live in. I have also ordered his book to dig deeper into what he was speaking on. I also looked into the number of people in jail that can’t afford bail.
I also attended Deacon Al and Mrs. Anderson’s youth workshop “You are never to young to be Pro Life”… It was a great session. Where the kids got to open up and talk freely. My heart my crushed when I found out not one Church had a Pro Life group. I remember being in elementary school helping out with Pro life events. It also was sad that these kids had to worry about drugs and people being killed steps away from their Churches and Schools. It made me realize how I grew up so active in the Church isn’t how everyone grows up. Being able to travel and learn so much about our culture. I wish we could do like a big sister/big brother program with the other black Catholic Churches that don’t have the resources like we do.”
Daniel Rudd Scholarship Award Recipient 2017-2018
Varia Alston of Baltimore, Maryland
Meet Varia Alston, an 8th grader at Cardinal Sheehan School in Baltimore, Maryland. She is a member of historic St. Francis Xavier Church; the nation’s oldest established African-American Catholic Church and the nation’s first African-American Catholic faith community.
Miss Alston was honored with the Daniel Rudd Scholarship from the Office of Black Catholic Ministries in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Daniel Rudd, 1854-1933, was the publisher of the American Catholic Tribune, a newspaper written by and about Black Catholics. He convened the first Congress in 1889 and is therefore credited with founding the National Black Catholic Congress.
Active in her parish, Varia is Vice President of the Junior Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Ct. #2257, and is holds membership in the youth choir, the Heavenly Praise Dance Ministry, the Ashanti Youth Ministry, and she is a Youth Lector in the parish.
In school, Varia is an honor student, a member of the school choir, a cheerleader, a member of the drama club, a member of both the hip-hop dance and advanced dance groups. She also holds the amazing feat of having perfect attendance in school since pre-K3.
Congratulations, Varia! We know God has great things in store for your future.
Sarah asks: 'Why do some people say that no matter what happens it is God's will? Surely murder is not God's will and yet people get murdered.'
Ask Father (Fr. Donato): We speak of God's will in various ways. Here, you are touching upon what we call the permissive will of God. God does not desire bad to happen to people but he also has given people free will. He permits bad to happen to good people as a result of the gift of freedom. At the same time, Scripture tells us that all things work together for the good of those who love God. Therefore, we must trust that He can bring good out of evil if we let Him. As the author of The Divine Providence, He knows what He is doing and His plans are greater than ours.
Marina asks: 'Why do some religions consider praying to icons and praying to saints as idol worshiping?'
Ask Father: Some religions wrongly interpret the Second Commandment where God spoke, "You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them..." (Exodus 20:4-5) These religions fail to take into consideration that only 5 chapters later, God instructs Moses to make images, or 'icons' of cherub on the mercy seat and that He will speak to us through this imagery. (Exodus 25:19-22). Therefore, it is clear, through the Bible, that venerationg icons is not the same as idol worship. Worship is due God alone, and that is what the Church teaches. However, we "honor" the saints and "venerate" them through icons because of their life in service to God. This also has Biblical roots (see the epistles of St. Paul). The saints give us an example as to how we are to live in Christ Jesus and for that we honor them and remember them and their lives.
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