Looking at the Stars

Homily by Deacon Gerard-Marie Anthony on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe 

We hear today in our first reading about “a great sign appearing in heaven,  a woman clothed with the son, the moon underneath her feet, and upon her head a crown of 12 stars.”

Well if we look at our Lady’s mantle in the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we notice her mantle is covered with stars.  The interesting thing is that scientist have studied this mantle and came to realize that the stars on her mantle match exactly how the stars were aligned in the sky the day of one of the apparitions Dec. 12, 1531.   But the stars are aligned not from an earthly or geocentric point of view like how we see the stars from earth, but from a heavenly or heliocentric point of view as she was looking at them from the sun or the heavens.Virgen_de_guadalupe1

So, this sign challenges us to ask ourselves, how do we see things, from an earthly or heavenly point of view? We will look at three more parts of the image to help us examine this.

First, in the image our Lady’s head is tilted the same degree of the earth.  Why?  Perhaps so we can remember that like the earth we must tilt so we can absorb the warmth of the Sun (Son).   We should look at this sign and ask, “Do we tilt towards absorbing worldly fame or heavenly gain?”

Secondly, we see in the image that the Virgin of Guadalupe’s eyes are looking down or in the right direction.  This represents humility, but also, we know that through the ribbon around her hands that Our Lady of Guadalupe is pregnant.  Thus, when Mary is looking down; she is looking down to heaven, the place where God is dwelling and that is her focus.   We often lose focus and take our eyes off our Lord and that’s when we start to focus on the darkness and lose sight of what’s important.  What’s important is God’s will, this is what we must bow our head’s to in humility and in this we stay on the right path.   So, the Virgin of Guadalupe teaches us to keep our eyes on the right things, to have a heliocentric or heavenly view, not simply a geocentric or worldly view.

Lastly, we see Mary’s smile represents the joy of being in the presence of God.  We hear in Mary’s Magnificat (the Gospel), “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit exalts in God my savior” (Lk. 1: 47).   We can understand the joy in dwelling in the greatness of God , but that means we must learn how to let God be the savior, not us

Remember our Lady comes as both virgin (single or consecrated) and mother (raising biological/adopted families) and so this lesson applies to all states of life.   When we try to fix things and “save the day even when we are not called to do so” (this is important because sometimes God is calling us to His instrument in solving problems) we look at life from an earthly point of view.  But when we allow God “to be God” we find joy because we allow Him into the situation, and thus into our hearts.  And Aquinas tells us that joy is the result of when we willingly think about/contemplate experiencing the good.   Sometimes we don’t experience joy because we try to be God and fix everything, but also sometimes we don’t experience joy simply because we don’t take time to contemplate the experience of God, to pray and thank God for the good.

So let us experience joy, the ultimate good by taking in the sign of the Virgin of Guadalupe.  Let us look at her mantle and challenge ourselves to see the stars, to see success or shining in life, not simply from a worldly or geocentric point of view, but from a heavenly Son-centered point of view.  If we do this, we will hear in a loud voice the Kingdom of God and the great blessings that God has in store for us.  Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

(Based on the Readings: Rev. 11:19-12:1-6, 10; Judith 13: 18-19; Gospel: Lk. 1:39-47)

The Pic(nic) of the Bunch

By Luke Poczatek

On Saturday, July 14th, I had the opportunity to attend a Ghanaian picnic at Fort Hunt Park. Many Ghanaian Catholics traveled from all around the Diocese (and some from even outside the Diocese) to attend this familial and festive gathering, sharing good food and fellowship. As soon as I arrived, I was greeted by warm smiles, and saw a Christ-like demeanor in them. There was cheerful music played, and many of the girls performed cultural dances, which gave me a small taste of the Ghanaian culture. Speaking of taste, you won’t starve with Ghanaians! There was plenty of delicious food being served, with a variety of Ghanaian cuisine. My favorite treat was their special fried donuts. They all made sure I had plenty to eat… and then wanted me to eat some more! One fun thing to see was a boys-verses-girls tug of war match. You would think with a couple of young men, the boys would have the win easily, but the girls pulled off some big wins, and there was an exciting spirit among both sides. I enjoyed my time at the park with Ghanaians, and it turned to be a beautiful afternoon of fellowship and camaraderie.

Looking back at my visit and getting to know more about these African communities, I see that there is a real thirst for belonging, and the faith unifies them in a beautiful way. I am very grateful for the time spent with them, being able to witness their Christ-like joy, and to see how their family comes together in this beautiful way. One can witness their example on how a family bond exemplifies the bond of the Church.

St. Joseph Goes to KUJENGA

By Deacon Albert Anderson
Chairperson for the Black Catholic Ministry, Diocese of Arlington
St. Joseph of Alexandria, VA

From Friday, March 2nd to Sunday, March 4th, 2018 several members of the St. Joseph (Alexandria, VA) parish family, together with youth and elders from the Diocese of Richmond and Archdiocese of Baltimore, attended the annual KUJENGA Youth Retreat in Richmond, VA.

Kujenga is a Swahili word, meaning “to build“. Hosted by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond’s Office for Black Catholics/Asian Ministry, Pam Harris, Th.M., Director, the weekend-long experience, designed for rising freshmen through high school seniors, was ordered toward building Christ centered, family-oriented leadership skills for youth in the Black Catholic community. This was accomplished through a series of presentations, small group discussions, games and faith sharing.

The setting was the beautiful 150-acre campus of the Roslyn Conference & Retreat Center. With its peaceful rolling hills and beautiful trees, it was a perfect place for our young people to get away from the distractions of the secular world and focus on how to best use their God given talents to build up His kingdom.

All cell phones were collected Saturday morning, and, after some initial moaning and groaning, no one seemed to miss them! The day began with a wonderful breakfast (CHAKULA) in a spacious dining hall with high ceilings and lots of windows looking out over the hills and valleys. This was followed by KARIBU – Welcome and Orientation: safety briefing; rules of and expectations for the Retreat, given by Fr. Anthony Bozeman, S.S.J. and Pam Harris. A “Hand Up” rule was established whereby whenever Fr. Bozeman, Pam or one of the Elders raised his or her hand, everyone got quiet and focused their attention on whoever “had the floor”. It was a wonderful, fun and effective way to maintain focus on the speaker.

Family Elders were then introduced, and each young person was assigned to a “Family”. The Elders were responsible for: encouraging youth participation and attention during presentations and throughout the weekend; keeping all young people in their family involved during the exercises; asking leading questions posed by presenters and facilitators; encouraging family members to participate in prayer services and liturgy; and getting their “children” to and from the sessions on time. There were also Aunts and Uncles assigned for the weekend. Their responsibilities included: environment (Mass, prayer services, Karamu feast); setting up snacks; assisting with wake up/lights out, head counts.

Families were asked to choose a Swahili Family Name that suited their particular family charism. They were also asked to read and sign the Family Pledge and adhere to a strict Code of Conduct. Then, a family symbol was chosen, and each young person took part in drawing the symbol on a large poster board. It was suggested to add something that symbolizes Christ (cross, dove, church, etc.). A family member was chosen to state the family name, explain what the name meant and why it was selected. As each family proclaimed its name, a family member lit a candle on the family table.

There were interactive presentations given on each of the seven principles of the Nguzo Saba (African-American Catholic Principles and the seven principles of Kwanzaa). Before every presentation of a principle, one candle of the Kinara (Swahili for candle holder) was lit. At the end of that presentation, the candle was extinguished. Two family members from one family were chosen by table Elders for one of them to light the candle as the other reads the definition of the principle. The candles are placed three red on the left, three green on the right, and a single black candle in the center. Red symbolizes past, present and future suffering for dignity and freedom. Black symbolizes the people of African descent. Green symbolizes hope in people of African descent, self-hood, self-determination, and in the new creation and Third World of truth, justice, peace and freedom for all.

Mario Dance did a fantastic job as our leader of song for the praise and worship gatherings.

The presentations were:

  1. Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness – Devin Jones
  2. Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race – Ashley Dixon
  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together – Pam Harris
  4. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination):  To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. – Mario Dance
  5. Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it – Candra Parker
  6. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together – Chauntele Taylor
  7. Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in God, our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness – Deacon Al Anderson

One of the most powerfully poignant times of the weekend came during Family Dialogue Courageous Conversation in the Entire Family (Authentically Black and Catholic) “Girls to Boys – Boys to Girls – Women to Boys – Men to Girls”. The objective was to encourage the teens to explore their identity as male/female African American Catholics. I participated in one of the all-male sub sessions “Boys to Men”. The personal stories shared by the young men about the challenges they face with interpersonal relationships were truly eye-opening. I’ve been told that the “Girls to Women” session was equally moving.

Sunday began in the beautiful chapel, overlooking a lush green valley. The retreat concluded Sunday afternoon with a Commissioning / Sending Forth Service. Following are some reflections by the St. Joseph delegation:

Beverly Anderson: The weekend I spent as the “aunt” to over 30 young people was so inspiring. The friendships developed, sharing and the overall fellowship shown by the youth will last with me for years. We need more weekends for youth to come together and share their challenges and struggle. Maybe this will help reduce some of the violence we are seeing in our schools.
Phyllis Johnson: The Unity, Respect and Reciprocity was refreshing to see in our youth. I left the retreat knowing our world is in capable hands. Young men and women ready for the challenges ahead!
Anthony Johnson: I served as an Elder and I could not have been [more] proud of my family.  As it turned out, I had one son and five daughters. This is significant because in my own family upbringing I had six older sisters to guide and shape me.  My focus was on the son but his sisters expressed and showed so much love – I simply watched and observed as a proud parent would.  They helped one another and their social and play demands were such that no one was excluded.  I was impressed at how well they did ‘across’ the age gap and without ‘technology’.  They thrived and formed lasting friendships – that I continue to hear them speak of well after KUJENGA.  Reports from my family’s actual parents are extremely positive and enriching – as I have been stopped after masses and given so much positive feedback!  I witnessed great leadership at KUJENGA and it has continued back at the parish!
Cameron Hubbard: I got a chance to meet new people. And I enjoyed my new family because I couldn’t believe I had 5 sisters, which had me laughing because I really do have 5 sisters so I knew I was in for it. Learning how to be a leader and helping the community was awesome. I was happy that we made bags with soap, snacks, deodorant, toothpaste and all kinds of things to give to the needy. It made me feel good to help others. And being able to talk about the problems that we as African American Males face was very helpful. Being able to show a new altar sever what Mr. Anthony taught me really made me feel (good) to show ‘n teach my best so that the Lord and Mr. Anthony would be proud of me. And getting a chance to bond with the other altar brothers from our Church was cool. The way the church was designed I will never forget because it was beautiful and different in the way it was built. I enjoyed the trip; it was a learning experience I will never forget!
I thank GOD I was chosen to go on this trip.
Jai Thompson: I really enjoyed the KUJENGA retreat.  It was nice to interact with other Black Catholic teens my age.  Learning about the Black priests and saints was very interesting, and I liked the activities.  I look forward to attending again in the future.  The food was delicious!
Kim Thompsom: KUJENGA was an amazing experience. I met many other Black Catholics and learned so much about African American Catholic history. It is an excellent environment to be in. I enjoyed my time at KUJENGA.
Mone` Williams: Kujenga was a great experience as Black Catholic youth. It showed us as teens and individuals that there are more people like us in this world than we realize and that we have to stick together to make sure this world is a better place for everyone. We all got to fellowship and become good friends outside of Kujenga. Personally, I am on FaceTime with one of the girls almost every day and have texting group chats with most of the teens from Baltimore. Overall, Kujenga was a very fun experience and I hope to be able to go back next year.

Yours in Christ,
Deacon Al

*Original post edited for length and clarity
Photos taken by Phyllis Johnson

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Holy Family Catholic Church Celebrates Black History

By Emelda August

Our Black History Mass and Potluck Dinner on Saturday, February 24 was a big success. Deacon Gerard-Marie Anthony got a big “Holy Family-welcome-back-home” with a large congregation present for the Mass. Father Bill was in attendance also, for his first Black History Program as our new Priest.

Comments after the service were all very positive stating, “He gave a wonderful homily” and “He did a great job explaining and sharing the great accomplishments of three African Americans into the readings and Gospel.” He highlighted the life and contributions of Servants of God Mother Mary Lange, Rev. Augustine Tolton, and Venerable Pierre Toussaint. They all sacrificed a lot while always obeying God and continuing to do good work. They all made a big impact on the Black community and Church.

St. Joseph’s Gospel Choir supplied beautiful music for the Mass and was enjoyed by all.

After Mass, we held our Annual Potluck Dinner in Fr. Griffin Hall. Deacon Anthony got a chance to meet and greet fellow parishioners who had a chance to talk and share dinner together.

Those in attendance were also able to learn about the Mother of Africa Chapel, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, with a poster that showcased pictures and interesting facts and articles about the significance of all the design elements. 

Praying for Vocations with the St. Therese Society

By Rose Mensah

St. Therese Vocation Society of the Diocese of Arlington held their annual Morning of Reflection to which all were invited, on Saturday February 3, 2018, at St Luke Catholic Church in McLean, Virginia.  About ten members of St Therese’s Society of the Ghana Catholic Community attended the program.


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The program started with a nine o’clock morning Mass celebrated by Fr. Anthony Pinizzotto of St. Luke’s parish of McLean, Virginia.  Rev. Fr. Jaffe, Director of Vocations for the Diocese was also in attendance. After Mass, Fr. Jaffe welcomed the attendees, and thanked them for their prayers. A continental breakfast of assorted baked goods, fruits and drinks were served.

The speaker of the conference, Fr.  Anthony Pinizzotto, talked about the importance of prayer, and that prayer should take us out of ourselves in order to serve others.  In his power point presentation, he suggested some ways of promoting vocations in our schools, parishes and in our communities.  Some suggestions were talking to the young kids about vocations during Religious Education Classes and giving encouragement. Also praying for those who are already priests, letting them know that you are praying for them; writing to them, letting them know how you appreciate them bringing us the Sacraments to nourish us and sustain us.

The conference ended with Holy Hour, but before the Holy Hour, St. Therese Society group from the Ghana Community of the Diocese prepared the attendees with songs of praise.


St. Therese Society of the Ghana Community of Arlington Diocese is going to take action on two things in Fr. Pinizzotto’s presentation: to pray each day for the person listed on the calendar, including the spiritual director of our community, and for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.  Secondly, the group is going to adopt a seminary in Ghana, and get the youth and children of the community to adopt a seminarian from that seminary and correspond with the seminarian.  The group is going to fund the correspondence project.

Prayer for Vocations

God our Father, through the Immaculate
Heart of Mary, I ask You to bless and
Strengthen the spiritual renewal and vitality
Of all priests, and consecrated religious so
That Your Church may shine with greater
Splendor and bear witness to Your presence
In our world today.  Please inspire many men
And women to respond to Your Son’s call to “Come, follow Me”.
I ask this in Jesus’ Name.



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Black Catholic Day of Reflection and Unity Mass

One highlight of Black Catholic History Month came during the Annual Day of Reflection and Unity Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Vienna, Virginia on November 18, 2017.

The Day of Reflection began with reflections on the experiences had by those who attended the National Black Catholic Congress XII. Next, Msgr. Ray East, Archdiocese of Washington gave the keynote address on missionary discipleship. Bishop Michael Burbidge, Diocese of Arlington, presented the Father Augustus Tolton and Mother Mary Lange award to this year’s recipient, Cecilia Braveboy. Prior to the Mass, there was a Praise and Worship session featuring Gospel hymns such as “Break Every Chain” by Will Reagan, and “I Give Myself Away” by William McDowell. Mass began at 5:00 p.m. and was celebrated by Bishop Roy E. Campbell, Jr, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington. Bishop Campbell was also the homilist. After the Mass a reception was held where everyone enjoyed great food and company.

Take a look at the great pictures taken at the Day of Reflection!

Photos Courtesy of Anthony Johnson

Celebrating Black Catholic History Month

Every November, Black Catholic History Month in celebrated across the nation. The Diocese of Arlington, through the Black Catholic Ministry, makes a special effort to recognize and celebrate this month. In Fredericksburg, Virginia, St. Jude Catholic Church honors the month annually with a special Mass celebration. Said Belinda Mattos, who helped organize this year’s celebration:

The Mass went extremely well. We had a great turnout and everyone loved the Ghanaian choir…

On Saturday, November 4, St. Jude Catholic Church in Fredericksburg held its 5th annual commemoration of Black Catholic History Month during the 5:00 pm vigil Mass. Deacon Al Anderson, of St Joseph Catholic Church-Alexandria, assisted the celebrant and St. Jude pastor, Father James Hudgins, and served as the homilist. Deacon Anderson gave a powerful homily carrying the message of humility from the readings and the gospel. The congregation was invited to a reception and Black Catholic History displays after the Mass. St. Jude Catholic Church holds this commemoration at the 5:00pm vigil Mass on the first Saturday of November each year.

Photos Courtesy of Phyllis Johnson

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!

National Black Catholic Congress XII

NBCC XII - July 6 - 9, 2017 - Group Photo - July 08, 2017 1NBCC XII - July 6 - 9, 2017 - Group Photo - July 08, 2017 2

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

NBCC XII - July 6 - 9, 2017 - Photos by Phyllis L. Johnson 49

“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. “

40th Anniversary of the St. Joseph Gospel Choir

By: Ed Jones, Black Catholic Community

img_8524The St. Joseph Gospel Choir held its annual concert on Sunday, October 16, 2016 entitled “Dwell in The House,” marking its 40th Anniversary of providing song and praise at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Starting from humble beginnings in 1976, when gospel music was not commonly sung in the Roman Catholic Church, the choir is now recognized for its musical talent in gospel expression; St. Joseph Gospel Choir receives frequent requests to sing for Church events, as well as concerts throughout the Washington Metropolitan area and beyond.

The 40th Anniversary Concert also included choirs and performers from the metropolitan area, making this event an even larger spirit and joy-filled celebration. The gospel choirs
from Our Lady Queen of Peace in Arlington, Virginia, and Incarnation Catholic Church in Washington, DC added to an evening of beautiful music. The Hunt Sisters, a familyimg_8480 quartet, performed traditional gospel spiritual songs, and the Towdah Mime Ministry acted out mime praise
interpretations to music. Mr. Jeffery Corry serenaded the
audience with a collection of piano melodies from popular spiritual songs.  At the conclusion of the evening, everyone left feeling completely fulfilled.

Join in the celebration! St. Joseph’s Gospel Choir sings at 11:00 a.m. Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 711 N. Columbus Street, Alexandria, VA 22314, on the third Sunday of every month. All are welcome!