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. “

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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!

26th Annual Manassas African-American Heritage Festival – August 6, 2016 (Evangelization in Action)

By Deacon Al Anderson, Jr. Black Catholic Ministries

For the third year in a row, the Black Catholic Ministries for the Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Multicultural Ministries has presented a display at the Manassas African-American Heritage Festival. Over the years the festival has grown to include more than 125 exhibitors, including arts and crafts dealers, retailers of African Wares, church groups, youth groups, colleges and school exhibits, Health Fair, Business and Job Expos, Classic Car Show and great food vendors.

African American Heritage Festival 2016

Our diocesan Black Catholic display

 

Our Black Catholic Ministries displays have routinely drawn fallen-away Catholics, curiosity seekers, and others into meaningful discussions. This year’s festival was no exception. What a wonderful opportunity for evangelization!

We met one lady (we’ll call her “Sue”) who was a cradle Catholic, but stopped going to church many years ago. Sue’s mother remained faithful to the practice of the faith and continues to pray for Sue’s “reversion” . Sue shared with me that this was her first Festival, but for some reason felt drawn to this year’s event. When she came across our display table she knew she had to stop and talk. We had a very good conversation and she is seriously considering coming back to Church. Praise God!

We also met an inter-racial Catholic couple who was looking for information about Black Catholics to share with their son. We were able to share with them:

  • The stories of the four African-American Catholics who currently have causes being promoted for canonization: Venerable Pierre Toussaint; Servant of God, Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange; Venerable Mother Henriette Delille, and Servant of God, Fr. Augustus Tolton.
  • The histories of several Black Catholic religious orders, including: the Josephites (an active order of priests and brothers founded after the Civil War to minister to the spiritual and material needs of newly freed slaves), the Oblate Sisters of Providence (the oldest order of Black Catholic nuns in the world), and the Sisters of the Holy Family (The 2nd oldest order of Black Catholic nuns).
  • Information about the Knights and Ladies of Peter Claver – originally founded November 7, 1909 in Mobile Alabama as an organization to allow men and women of color membership in a Catholic fraternal, family-oriented, society.

Each year we have been blessed to have opportunities for dialogue with folks who are curious about Catholicism; have questions about what we believe; or are looking for a way “back home”. All the while enjoying great food, wonderful music, beautiful antique cars, and genuine, warm-hearted fellowship! Even the torrential rains which came at the end of the day couldn’t dampen the spirits of the good people there! Hope to see y’all there next year!

African American Heritage Festival 2016 pic3

And then the Rain came!

Phyllis L. Johnson receives the first Father Augustus Tolton & Mother Mary Lange Service Award!

This past November 2015, the Office of Multicultural Ministries partnered with the Black Catholic Ministries to hold an event entitled, Watering the Garden: Growing Vocations in the Black Catholic Family. Various speakers from across the U.S. came to speak at the event, including Bishop Joseph Perry of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Deacon A. Gerard Jordan, O. Praem., from Daylesford Abbey in Paoli, Pennsylvania, and Father Scott Woods, from the Archdiocese of Washington, and Sister Josita Colbert, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Cincinnati, Ohio.

All seven speakers came prepared to speak on a variety of topics relating to vocations within the Black Catholic Family, during this day-long conference. The day ended with our annual Unity Mass, celebrated by Bishop Perry, in which Catholics of African-American, Caribbean, and  African descent gather to celebrate their unity in the Catholic faith.

After Mass, we held a reception for all those who attended the Unity Mass. At the reception, we presented the Father Augustus Tolton & Mother Mary Lange Award to Mrs. Phyllis L. Johnson, the very first recipient of the award! While Phyllis was quite surprised, the onlookers were not. Phyllis received this award because of how she has excelled inDSC_3198 (photo taken by Anthony J. Johnson ) service to not only the Black Catholic Community, but also to the Office of Multicultural Ministries. She is present at almost every event, and always comes with camera-in-hand, ready to take pictures and document the special moments that occur. She is constantly striving toward evangelization and discipleship and goes out of her way to help those in need. We were so thrilled to be able to present this award to such a deserving member of the Black Catholic Community. Congratulations, Phyllis!

Not only did this award receive attention throughout the Diocese of Arlington, but it also received national attention, as well! The National Black Catholic Congress got news of this award, and shared the story in a ‘Spotlight Article.’ Click here to view the article.

The Office of Multicultural Ministries plans on presenting the Father Augustus Tolton & Mother Mary Lange Award to a new recipient every year. This award is a great way to display our gratitude to those within the Black Catholic Community that consistently go above and beyond to not only help others within their community, but also at the Diocesan level. In the upcoming years, we will be asking those in the Black Catholic Community for nominations for this award. If you are interested in nominating someone to receive the Father Augustus Tolton & Mother Mary Lange Award, please click here to fill out the application.

Did you miss Watering the Garden: Growing Vocations in the Black Catholic Family? Click here to hear Bishop Joseph Perry’s Keynote or to listen to any of the talks by our many speakers throughout the day.