The Challenge is to Silence the Mind

By Deacon Al Anderson, Jr. & Ed Jones

We recently attended the 14th annual National Black Catholic Men’s Conference, held in Miami, FL October 5th – 8th. The conference is presented each year by the Bowman Francis Ministry Project, under the leadership of three Society of Divine Word (SVD) priests: twins Reverend Charles and Chester Smith SVD, and Reverend Rev Ken Hamilton SVD

In answer to the question” Why a Black Catholic Men’s Conference?” the brochure states “We are committed Black men, principally Catholic, who recognize our need for God’s help! We gather in Christ’s presence in an atmosphere of trust, equality and anonymity, to share personal feelings and experiences. We unconditionally accept one another and prayerfully support one another. We feel encouraged by the Holy Spirit to share with one another….. Men to Men!”

The theme of this year’s gathering was “The Challenge is to Silence the Mind”. The goal was to provide a holistic and healthy approach to rid ourselves of the negative “noise” (i.e. self-doubt, low self-esteem, rage, etc.) that inhibits us from successfully contending with the psychological and spiritual warfare that many African American men and boys face in today’s society; to provide tools for effectively dealing with pervasive violence, drugs and mass incarceration.

Fr. Sydney Speaks gave very powerful reflection titled “Authority is in the Air”, at the opening session on Thursday evening. He reminded us that true authority comes only from God and those in positions of authority should use it with a servant’s mentality; glorifying God, rather than themselves. Fr. Sydney also exhorted us to not shy away from the authority that we have been given but to eagerly embrace it; while constantly praying for God’s wisdom and seeking the counsel of our brothers and sisters. He has a very active youth ministry and was the primary speaker at the various youth tracts that were presented at the conference.

Fr. Sydney Speaks

Fr. Sydney Speaks

Each day began with Praise and Worship, led by the dynamic Gospel music group Men in the Fire. Afterwards, there were many excellent workshops and keynote addresses on a wide range of topics including: “The History of Black Catholicism”, by Fr. George Kinitba; “Urban Education in the Black Community” by Dr. Donald Edwards, Ed.D; “All Green/and No Black-Environmental Activism is Social Justice Activism” by Dr. Griena Knight-Davis, LPC; and many, many more (Too many to list here)!

We attended several very good workshops. One that particularly impressed me was titled “The Stigma Associated with African American Male Incarceration” by Dr. Wylie Tidwell, PhD. Dr. Tidwell outlined several root causes, historical and current, of Mass Incarceration in the African American community:

  • Reconstruction after slavery – the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery except as punishment for a crime. Reconstruction also gave birth to Jim Crow laws.
  • Lack of Civic Participation – Placing of barriers, such as gerrymandering, designed to exclude Black folks from participation in the political process.
  • Breakdown of Black Families and Communities
  • Deformation of the Black Church and the rise of impersonal / cold mega churches.

The workshop “Where are all the Black Men”, presented by Msgr. Fredrico Britto addressed concerns faced by many churches regarding male absence from the congregation and church activities.  The presenter stated that the average Black Church is made up of 75% female and 75% elders, which posed the question, “what happened to them?” This spawned a lively and interesting open discussion on possible reasons that may have brought about the lack of participation.  The suggested list of reasons was endless but very insightful and enlightening.   Some suggested approaches to getting them back involved included:

  • Men need to hear other men witness to them about the goodness of Jesus
  • Have men to men support groups that include prayer, Bible study, Men’s Day Program and service to the church
  • Ask them for their help (using their professional skills)
  • Mentoring program, Rites of Passage program

The closing Mass for the Conference was held on Saturday evening at the Notre Dame d’Haiti Mission in the heart of Miami’s “Little Haiti”. Bishop Burchell McPherson, a former pastor of the parish (for 18 yrs.) was the celebrant for the Mass. Concelebrating were many African American and African priest from around the country. Fr. Stephen Brown, SVD gave a rousing homily on the conference theme of “The Challenge is to Silence the Mind”. Men in the Fire provided the music ministry for the Mass. The conference ended on Sunday morning with a Healing and Commissioning Service led by Fr. Hamilton.

We have attended several of these conferences in the past and have always come back renewed and refreshed in the Spirit and given much information and counsel on how to better serve my own diaconal ministry. We look forward to next year!

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My Roman Rite

Written by: Daniel Rice, Seminarian

This summer I have had a great deal of exposure to a vast range of cultural traditions, especially with regard to the way in which a large diversity of cultures worship God within His One Church. I have met many people of great joy and devotion to our Lord, people whose differences are good to experience. Yet they are also people whose differences are not as great as their similarities, for we all share one human nature and, on an even deeper and more profound level, are adopted sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. How amazing that, as baptized Christians, we can call God our Father, Abba (loosely translated: dad), through the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us. In the words of St. John the Beloved and Evangelist, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). Truly, we are all one in Christ.

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This summer has been a fruitful one. I hope that my testimony of vocation has been beneficial for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I know that the experiences I have shared with them have been fruitful for me. One profound way in which this was so is that their various cultural traditions have made me reflect upon my own and grow in my love for it. I am an English-speaking Roman Rite Catholic, and what a blessing to be one! I love the English language, the Roman Rite Mass, and the unique spirituality and spiritualities of Western Catholicism. God has indeed set my heart aflame for the beauty, goodness, and truth of Himself, the Catholic faith, and the Roman tradition.

One amazing part of our liturgical tradition is our amazing sacred music. Our vast array of sung music ranges all the way from Latin chant to English hymnody. One piece of music in particular caught my attention this summer: If Ye Love Me, by Thomas Tallis, a 16th century English composer. I invite you to find the best speakers you can, follow the link, sit back, and listen to this amazing piece of music, reading along with the lyrics:

“If ye love me, keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may ‘bide with you forever, e’en the spirit of truth.” (John 14:15–17)

During my third time listening to this in the office, Kelvin gave me a look and said, “Is that you [playing the music]?” I replied, “Yeah.” He added, “Oh, I thought the angels were coming to get me.”

That’s it right there. This piece of music and so many more draw the heart, mind, and soul to their Creator. Their beauty is apparent, but is not their own. Borrowing several words of St. Augustine, “Their beauty is their confession of God.” They are expressive and formative, giving voice and elegance to our prayer to God as well as teaching us about God. After all, the words in Tallis’ piece are from scripture; they are the words of Christ Himself.

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Mural of (top to bottom) Christ the High Priest, the virtues, several Saints, and the minor orders.  St. Turibius Chapel at the Pontifical College Josephinum.

We also see this beauty in our sacred art and architecture. Seminarians of the Pontifical College Josephinum, the first time they walked into the newly completed St. Turibius chapel, said that it was as if they “had stumbled into paradise.” I was blessed to complete my four years at the Josephinum by seeing the restoration, renovation, and re-dedication of that chapel. It did indeed seem like a sort of paradise, and all of the art intentionally drew the connection between the sacred space, the Mass, and Heaven. It is upon the altars of the Church that we are united to the Pascal mystery and sacrifice of Christ. It is upon the altars of the Church that Heaven and Earth kiss.

There is much more to my cultural tradition than its music, art, and architecture. I feel at home in the structure, prayers, smells, dress, and actions of our liturgy. I experience the words of Scott Hahn, who named one of his books, Rome Sweet Home. Hopefully we may each begin to plumb the depths of the rich faith that has been handed down to us, each through our own cultural traditions.

Thank you to the Office of Multicultural Ministries and all who welcomed me into their communities this summer.

Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.

Our Lady of Lavang

Written by: Daniel Rice, Seminarian

On August 5, I went to Saint Veronica’s for Mass with Our Lady of LaVang Catholic Vietnamese Community. I was able to serve at the Mass, and the five altar servers guided me with regard to the particular way of serving in that sanctuary. This was quite helpful, for while every sanctuary ought to have the same key features and some similar qualities, each has its own particular character.

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Written in gold half way up the sanctuary wall: “Consider how Veronica saw Him so afflicted and attended and wiped His most holy face.”

At the end of Mass, Father let me speak for a minute or two. I encouraged all present to entrust their vocation to Mary, and (after the inspiration of Pope St. John Paul II) not to be afraid to open wide the doors of their heart to Christ, not to be afraid to follow him on the amazing adventure He has planned for them, not to be afraid to become who they were made to be. After all, God doesn’t just make a person and then draw a blueprint for his life, telling him to follow the directions. Rather, God’s Will, which is Love and Mercy itself, is written on our hearts, is inscribed into our very being. That is the vocation, the calling, that we discover. Your vocation is not what you do, but who you are.

Our Lady of LaVang, pray for us.

Salvador del Mundo

Written by: Daniel Rice, Seminarian

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On August 6, I went to Holy Family Parish in Dale City for Mass. While the Mass itself was for the feast of the Transfiguration (as in the rest of the diocese), the liturgy was also commemorating the feast of Salvador del Mundo, the Savior of the World. The Hispanic congregation there at Mass was almost entirely El Salvadorian, for this is their patronal feast, as is evident from the name. The Mass was even celebrated by an El Salvadorian bishop!

I had the privilege of serving at the Mass, and afterward there was a small festival behind the church. I saw several of my coworkers from the Apostolado Hispano Office, who took me around to different food stands to give me hefty samplings of authentic El Salvadorean food: pupusas, tacos, empanadas, yucca, and a special fruit drink of which I forget the name–but not the taste!

20170806_154130.jpgAt this festival, there was a small tournament as well. One by one, young men on bicycles rode as fast as they could underneath a rope that hung across the street. Each one held a small wooden pike, which he would attempt to pike through a small, metal ring above his head as he rode by. Each successful spearing was rewarded with a small amount of cash. This whole competition was reminiscent of Medieval tournaments in which gallant knights in full suits of armor would use their jousting lances to accomplish similar feats, for rewards of various kinds, but most especially for glory. They rode not on bicycles, but on what the bicycles were meant to imitate: caballos, horses.

Let every man imitate the virtues of noble knights, among them valor, chivalry, honor, selflessness, sacrifice, loyalty, and piety, always fighting to protect the well-being and dignity of all, especially the poor and the the weak. Let every woman imitate the virtues of noble ladies, among them gentleness, inspiration, love, true and interior beauty, dignity, inner strength, and devotion, always caring for those in need. All those old, made up stories we heard as children may contain more truth, virtue, and goodness then they at first seemed to possess.

¡Salvador del Mundo, ten piedad de nosotros! Savior of the World, have mercy on us!

Holy Martyrs of Vietnam: An Example to Follow

Written by: Daniel Rice, Seminarian

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On July 23, I had the pleasure of attending Mass at Holy Martyrs of Vietnam in Arlington. I was welcomed by their Pastor, Father Liem Tran, a Dominican priest, and allowed to serve. The church was full, and I was struck not only by the excellence and reverence of the altar boys, but also by the reverence and devotion of all present. In fact, there was a certain similarity between the congregation and the image on the sanctuary wall. Pictured on the wall is an image of the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, those who had given their whole selves to God, dying for bearing the name of Christ. What a great reminder of who we are called to be.

Whether or not we are called to martyrdom, each of us is called to be a saint, to die to himself each day out of love for Jesus Christ. We need not look for sanctity in some life other than our own. Rather, we can “do small things with great love,” as Mother Teresa says. Whether washing the dishes, getting out of bed, going to work, putting aside some time for prayer, having a conversation with a family member, coworker, or friend, or doing anything else, we are always called to make a total offering of ourselves to God in love. Let us use the Holy Family as an example, Who, in daily life, dwelt with God. After all, Jesus spent 30 years in the simplicity of his home before his three years of ministry and three days of bringing about the Paschal mystery, his passion, death, and resurrection. Let us sanctify our daily lives.

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Back to Holy Martyrs! The choir and instrumental musicians were composed of members of varying ages, and they used their voices, strings, and talents to glorify God. Aside from the choir, the priest and the people chanted much of the Mass. Vietnamese is a tonal language, so it is not a great leap from speaking the language to chanting it. Because of this, the ease and naturalness of these chanted prayers was perceptible.

At the end of Mass, I said a few words about vocation and then greeted the people as they came out of the church. Each handshake was accompanied by a respectful bow of the head, both by the people and by me.

Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, pray for us.

The Catholic Foundation – Attending My First Brazilian Mass

Written by: Daniel Rice, Seminarian

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On July 16, I visited the Diocesan Brazilian Community at the Missionhurst CICM Chapel in Arlington. Driving through the narrow streets of a tightly scrunched neighborhood, I popped out into a small oasis of bright green lawns and trees as well as some lovely buildings. On those grounds was the chapel, in which I had the opportunity to attend their monthly Mass, which is in Portuguese.

20170716_181327.jpgI arrived early to train two boys to be altar servers. This was the first time I had ever done altar server training, and I hadn’t realized how hard it is to communicate all that a server needs to know (or even most of it) in a short period of time. Nevertheless, they served the Mass with me, and they did quite well for their first time.

While the small amount of Spanish that I have learned helped a little, it was still difficult for me to understand the Portuguese language within the Mass. However, since the Roman Catholic Mass has the same foundation, no matter the language, I was still able to know what was going on at each key juncture of the liturgy.

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After Mass, we gathered for refreshments and conversation. While enjoying a few Brazilian baked goods and a Brazilian fruit drink, I met one man who, we discovered, was my dad’s old high school classmate. The Catholic world is a small world, it seems; and yet, it is large, Catholic, universal.

 

 

Mary, Mother of the Church, Pray for us.

A Sequel to “My Journey in Finding God”

By: Marierose Hoang, Vietnamese Catholic Community

The summer of 2017 is nothing but extraordinary to me. You can have a plan, but at the end it is God who has the final say.

It began on July 1st, when I had the privilege of being part of the delegation led by Bishop Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington, VA at The Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel, a gathering convened by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Following this conference, with a more in-depth understanding of what it means to be a missionary disciple, I embarked on my 3rd year mission back to a Danang, Vietnam.

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What a surprise: Welcoming banner to the participants of the 2017 Montessori Education training session.

At my first training session, I was met by 75 eager and enthusiastic sisters of St. Paul de Chartres, who are mostly from southern Vietnam. In the first two days, my daily prayers consisted of: “God, please help me in fulfilling what you have planned for me, allow me

Marierose Teaching in Vietnam

First day of training

to completely surrender to your will and let the Holy Spirit dwell in me for the next 8 days.” And yes, He was always by my side and the training was received with much joy and appreciation. And I cannot do this alone. There is a whole community supporting me from behind and they are the hosting sisters of Thanh Tam congregation in Danang (only 8 of them), with the mission of showing “compassion for suffering people – above all to women and the poorest of the poor – by sharing in the teaching and health care mission of the Church”. They have contributed greatly to this success.

I was unknowingly provided with the means to respond to the radical call to missionary discipleship. Vietnam is a communist country of which there is no God. Trying to reinstate the core values of the Catholic faith there on your own, will only bring headache, disappointment and risk of being expelled.

The sisters of St. Paul de Chartres at Thanh Tam are an evangelizing community and truly embody “a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice.” An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19) and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed.

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The Lord sent me to this community and step by step has unveiled his intentions. Many times I have asked myself what is the purpose of my earthly existence. I have learned that the purpose is to collaborate with the sisters in their teaching mission of the Church, a church that goes forth to everyone without exception (E.G. 48). If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go to first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbors, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, “those who cannot repay you” (Lk 14:14). In Vietnam, the handicapped children, especially from poor families have been on the margins of society. They are considered the outcasts, the parasites of society. And if they were lucky enough to have some care, it is only for the benefits of certain people taking advantage of their situation.

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Hearing impaired children learning about the continent of Asia

Going to the peripheries: E.G. 20

  1. The word of God constantly shows us how the Lord challenges those who believe in him “to go forth.” Abraham received the call to set out for a new land (cf. Gen 12:1-3). Moses heard God’s call: “Go, I send you” (Ex 3:10) and led the people towards the promised land (cf. Ex 3:17). To Jeremiah God says: “To all whom I send you, you shall go” (Jer 1:7). In our day, Jesus’s command to “go and make disciples” echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges of the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new mission of “going forth.”Each Christian and community must discern their own path, but all of us are asked to obey the Lord’s call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all of the “peripheries” in the light of the Gospel. For most of the Vietnamese Americans who have left the country when the war ended, the hope of going back is very remote. It is remote not because they are not allowed to come back, but more due to resentment and mistrust of a government thriving on corruption and in a “throwaway culture.” Sandwiched between a generation of boat people who have risked their lives and vowed  never to come back and a new generation totally American unable to make sense out of this fierce conviction, the call to come back to lend a hand is not an easy answer. Many times my husband and I have been accused of being pro communist.The Lord has led me to the sisters of St. Paul de Chartres. By his Will, I was able to humbly  assist the sisters in providing a new insight to the educational system for these less fortunate children. With constant prayers and guided by the Holy Spirit, we have started slowly re-instituting  the core values of Catholic teaching in their daily school activities. The training of the teacher is far more than learning ideas. It includes the training of character. It is a preparation of the spirit. Just as Saint Pope John XXI said:

“It is possible to see a clear analogy between the Shepherd in the Church and that of the prudent and generous educator in the Montessori method, who with tenderness, with love and with a wise evaluation of gifts, knows how to discover and bring to light the most hidden virtues and capacities of the child.”

From the start in summer of 2015 at Thanh Tâm Special Education Center to this summer of 2017, it has been quite a journey filled with Joy and Gratitude. The seed of spreading the Montessori Education to the less fortunate children in Vietnam has started to grow. It takes good soil, with good seed that is well tended by an attentive gardener. Without these we cannot expect a crop to grow and produce abundant fruit. (Matthew 13:2)

It is still a continuing journey in which I hope the call to be a missionary disciple will stay in me for the remainder of my life on earth.

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Presenting an original peace ceremony activity: one special component of the Montessori curriculum: Peace Education

St. Paul Chung Pucallpa Mission 2017

Written by: Yoonhee Kim, Korean Catholic Community

During the second week of July, the missionary team of the St. Paul Chung Parish (Fr. Andrew Paik, Pastor) went on the 6th medical mission in Pucallpa, Peru. The missionary team shared the love of God by providing medical assistance through medicine, acupuncture and personal hygiene services.

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For this mission led by Dr. Michael Donhyun Kim along with Fr. Taegon Andrew Seong, IMG_6376we teamed up with medical specialists, oriental acupuncturists, hairdressers and the youth team for a total of 29 people. We distributed essential medication and vitamins as well as providing a clinic for assisting with pain and other ailments. Our youth team visited the local high school to teach English and spent time with children, providing various kinds of activities, art projects, and snacks.

 

 

 

Being surrounded by the poverty and hardships in Pucallpa, we were able to see all that we take for granted. By providing help and assistance to the people in need, we could attempt to hear God’s message through their lives.  Hopefully, our presence and effort gave them happiness and belief in the future.  At the same time, the mission participants could take one more step on the road to becoming closer to God through their Catholic faith.

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Lean Into It! – WorkCamp 2017

By Daniel Rice, Seminarian

Isabel, Bishop, Anne, Sarah.jpgOn the morning of Tuesday, June 27, I drove down I-95 and Route 1 to Fredericksburg. At this point, the 2017 Diocesan WorkCamp was well underway, and had been for three days. Each year, over 1,300 teens, contractors, adult leaders, and volunteers from parishes throughout the diocese spend a week of their summer at WorkCamp, helping those less fortunate than themselves in a particular area of the diocese. This year (as well as the past couple years), WorkCamp was centered in Fredricksburg at Massaponax High School. When I arrived around 10:00AM, the high school was not the bustling city it usually is, since the teens and their adult leaders had already departed for their daily work sites. When I arrived, I checked in with the homebase team, who work to ensure that things will run smoothly at the high school. On homebase team, our jobs range from filling up hundreds of water coolers each day, to putting up signs, to leading games, to simply spending time with the campers, accompanying them in their work, prayer, and activities.

Power Saw.jpgThat Tuesday, I had the enviable job of visiting sites. With two of my peers from homebase, I drove 45 minutes through the beautiful Virginia countryside to a site where about eleven teens and four adult leaders were putting up a clothesline, making a garden, and clearing off the back porch of a woman in need of that assistance. After spending some time talking with them and encouraging them, we made our way to our second site visit, where a group of a similar size was working on a trailer to replace several windows, clean and paint the roof, and replace the bottom two feet of siding all the way around. We ate lunch with this group, having some good and fruitful conversation in the cool shade of a tree in the front lawn of the resident for whom they were working.

We got back to the high school in time for homebase’s afternoon meeting, in which we went over the upcoming events for that evening and had roles assigned to each of us. Each evening, campers return from their work sites, endure long lines for showers, eat dinner, and spend time with friends.  At about 6:30PM, everyone goes into the gym (which has been carpeted and furnished with a stage) for Program, a time when the WorkCampers gather for songs, talks, fun activities, prayer, and a slide show video of campers at their sites that day. The specific contents of Program vary day by day, but Tuesday’s Program is always the highlight of the week.

Benediciton.jpgAfter a short slide show and a brief introduction, Bishop Burbidge came on stage and spoke a few words to the youths, expressing to them his amazement at seeing and being present at his first Arlington WorkCamp, encouraging them, relating a story of a grateful resident whom a couple crews were helping, and telling them all to be silent with Jesus Christ in adoration, saying to Him, “Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening” (cf. 1 Samuel 3:9). The Bishop then led adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament–at which I had the privilege to serve–first exposing our Lord, next processing with Him through the crowd of people, and finally placing Him back on the altar. For the next hour or more, all adored Jesus during the rosary, some music, and some time of silent prayer. While I went to the section for prayer partners (adults to whom the teens can come to have one-on-one conversation and prayer), Bishop and more than 50 other priests went to their stations to hear Confessions. They were certainly kept busy, and many of the teens had a powerful encounter with God that night through those two Sacraments, the Most Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation. For many, this was the first time they had ever been to adoration and the first time in several years that they had been to Confession. In my years as a work-camper, this night was powerful indeed, and was influential in my decision to apply to the seminary. After the conclusion of Program each night, the teens meet together with their parish groups to share and discuss their experiences and other aspects of their lives.

Each year that I go to help with WorkCamp, I meet amazing people. This year was no different, and although I could write or talk about many of the people I met, I will pick just one. One man on this year’s homebase team lives in England. Being born and raised across the pond, he is now in a university there while also doing youth ministry at a Catholic Parish. One of his American friends gave such rave reviews of Arlington’s WorkCamp that he flew over to America just for that week! He said that already WorkCamp had blown him away and that he is going to do his very best to come back next year. Hearing his experience and seeing his example of Christian joy, I realized how truly blessed we are to live in such an amazing diocese, how blessed I have been to be involved with WorkCamp for several years, and how good it is to be a seminarian for this diocese.

Morning Mass.jpgOn Wednesday, I served morning Mass (an everyday occurrence at WorkCamp, the work being balanced with prayer) with the bishop and several other priests and seminarians. Following that, I helped carry water coolers, made another site visit, helped with various small jobs around the school, welcomed the campers back upon their return, helped collect their lunch bags, and watched the talent show rehearsal–these teens have some serious skills. I departed that evening, giving thanks for the couple days I spent there and praying for all who would remain for a couple more.

See the recap video of Diocesan WorkCamp 2017 here.

St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us.

 

National Black Catholic Congress XII

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Twenty-five members of the diocesan Black Catholic Community attended this year’s National Black Catholic Congress (NBCC), which is held every five years in various locations across the United States. This year’s Congress was held in Orlando, Florida from July 6-9, 2017 with the theme, The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me: Act Justly, Love Goodness and Walk Humbly with Your God. While the NBCC attendees witnessed many of the same speakers and presentations, each individual walked away from the Congress with a different perspective. Below are the reflections of a few of our Black Catholic Community members who attended the National Black Catholic Congress XII:

 

Reflection from Patricia Jacobs, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Alexandria

“I was blessed and privileged to attend the Congress in Orlando, Florida.  This was the first Congress that I have attended and I was very excited and pleased to have been chosen to go. My overall opinion, which I could see immediately, was that it was very well organized and designed to address ‘real’ issues in today’s world.

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All of the General Sessions were excellent and inspiring.  However, I enjoyed Dr. Bent-Goodley and Attorney Bryan Stevenson the most.  Their topics had a special interest for me.  With regards to the workshops, I found both, the topics and the presenters, to be interesting and relevant. Deciding on which ones to attend was difficult as there were so many to choose from.  I finally decided on:  Racism:  A Negative and Real Destructive Force; The Unrest in Ferguson: Archdiocese of St. Louis – Best Practices and Lessons Learned; Methodical Bible Study that Works; and, Racism:  A Negative and Real Destructive Force.  (I used to live very close to Ferguson so that workshop was personal for me.  I had no idea that the Church/Bishop was so involved).

In addition to the General Sessions and Workshops, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting other Black Catholics from around the country.  I thought the event was ‘Awesome’ and I am glad to have had the opportunity to attend and look forward to the next one.”

 

Reflection from Barbara Harris, Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church

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“I thought the whole Congress was well organized! I enjoyed every minute, especially the Welcoming and the Eucharistic Liturgy at the Basilica. The workshops I attended were led by Tonya Dorsey. I learned some tips on how to sight read and how to be a better choir member.  I sang in the choir at the Basilica and at the Eucharistic Liturgies both Saturday and Sunday mornings!  I also sang in the Gospel Concert!! 😊 (The Lord is Good all the Time!) I especially enjoyed meeting members from other parishes. I am originally from Omaha, Nebraska and it was really special for me to  see members from St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Omaha who I haven’t seen in ages!”

 

Reflection from Phyllis & Anthony Johnson, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Alexandria

“Anthony and I were presenters for the interactive workshop entitled:  I knew you before you were born.

nbcc-xii-july-6-9-2017-photos-by-fred-k-pro-life-workshop-3.jpgThis was an ‘interactive’ workshop targeted at young adults.  A total of four workshops were given. Almost 90 attendees took part in the interactive workshops’ which were very well received.

A number of clergy sat in and took active roles with each group’s breakout session.  Each group had seven questions to answer.  This afforded them the opportunity to discuss and share among themselves things that work and do not work in their individual parishes. At the conclusion of each interactive session – results were shared among all the attendees.

At least two attendees admitted to the group that they did not think or feel confident that a PRO LIFE discussion could be held in an ‘interactive’ forum with their views being addressed head on.  In fact that is exactly what happened for this attendee – I am paraphrasing – as one group participant put it, ‘I’m so glad Father was there to address my concerns directly – because of that I now see that PRO LIFE is much more than just an abortion issue.'”

 

Reflection from Sharon & Ben Carter, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Alexandria

“This was our first time attending a National Black Congress and it exceeded our expectations!  It was a fantastic learning, spiritual, and faith-filled time.

The Congress was well planned and the theme, The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me: act justly, love goodness, and walk humbly with your God, radiated throughout the event.  It was reinforced in the remarks of the speakers in the general sessions, as well as in the workshops.

Our favorite speaker was Bryan Stevenson, Esq.—“Love Mercy and Do Justice: Confronting Mass Incarceration, Racial Bias and Poverty”.  His charge to all of us to change the narrative of fear and anger, to do things that are uncomfortable, to become proximate were compelling and actions we hope to take forward in our lives and to our parish.

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The participation of the youth in the Congress was heartwarming and comforting.  It solidified the importance of our youth in our churches, and how we must listen to them and include them in our programs. Hopefully, at the next Congress, our church will have members of our youth participating.  As one of our speakers noted, the youth are our church Now and in the Future.

We are so grateful to Deacon Al Anderson, Jr. for his leadership, love and guidance.  And, to the Diocese for supporting us financially and spiritually in our journey and participation in this Congress.  It has filled our hearts and our souls with a burning desire to continue our journey to live as Christ wants us to live and to share His Word.”

 

Reflection from Ciara Vega-Strickland, Former St. Joseph parishioner, now living in Florida

“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.

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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.”

 

Reflection from Thaleia Deramous, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Alexandria

“I greatly appreciate the opportunity to travel to Orlando to experience the Congress this year.  It was so nice to be able to get together with over 2,000 Black Catholics from around the world.  Overall the conference was great.  I enjoyed hearing Cardinal Turkson speak as well as Mr. Bryan Stevenson, who spoke about our prison systems.  He was EXCELLENT!!!  I’ve already ordered his book, Just Mercy.  I greatly enjoyed the Mass at the Shrine and the Homily.  That priest gave a compelling homily that really spoke to what we as blacks are dealing with today. “