By Carol G. Stukes-Baylor, Our Lady of Hope Parish
As I prepared to attend the 12th National Black Catholic Congress I had several questions heavy on my mind and heart. On Thursday, we heard the message from Andrae Goodnight on why he converted to Catholicism and why he felt honored to portrait Fr. Tolton. For me, his message and spirit made the theme of the Congress “The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me: act justly, love goodness, and walk humbly with your God” come alive. I left that session with my mind racing on ways to promote his play because I wanted the whole world to know about this famous Black Catholic Priest.
On Friday morning, His Eminence, Peter Kodwo Cardinal Turkson, keeping in line with the theme, lead us in a power and spiritual session. He reminded us that as Black Catholics, we had the power and we must stand together. Following the general session, I attend the breakout session “Racism: A Negative and Real Destructive Force” by Fr. Donald Sterling. Fr. Kodwo message was so powerful that it through this session off course. People came in fired up, with questions on racism in the church and the world. Fr. Sterling in turned asked us what steps are we willing to take NOW to improve the lives of those that feel disenfranchised by the Church. He said that we could not leave the Congress without a plan of action, or letting our voices being heard, or sharing our ideas. Friday afternoon I attend the breakout session “The Unrest in Ferguson: Archdiocese of St. Louis-Best Practices and Lessons Learned: by I. Lynn Squires. From the description of the session, you would think it was going to be about the people in Ferguson still being angry and upset. But instead you heard how St. Augustine Catholic Church stepped up and out for its’ parishioners and the community. What better way to end the night than at the “Opening Eucharistic Liturgy at The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe”. From the marching in of the Priest, the liturgy and the choir, we set that church on fire and let with the spirit and then we got our spirit on.
Fr. Maurice Emelu started Saturday morning with an inspirational message on “Gifted to Lead”. He told us that being an inspired leader, a bridge builder, a team worker and relationship should be one. We should inspire others to lead as well. After that, I attended the breakout session “Informing the USCCB Pastoral Letter on Racism”. We were placed in groups to come up with some suggestions for the Bishops. Bryan Stevenson, Esq, lead us in a dynamic session on “Love Mercy and Do Justice: Confronting Mass Incarceration, Racial Bias and Poverty.” He challenged us to change the narrative, embrace the broken, be hopeful and get uncomfortable. I followed up by attending the breakout session “Love One Another as I have Loved you: Witnessing Our Faith in Christ to those Who are Incarcerated in Jails and Prisons” by Deacons Francis Nelson, Jr. and Charles Williams. Both Deacons spoke about how to start a prison ministry at your parish and diocesan level. They spoke about their first impression to the ministry and on how you must listen and gain respect from the inmates. The audience gave their views on the program, as well as, the re-entry program. Next it was the Lay Women Retreat which was embracing, enriching and enlightening. Next it was the moving message from Fr. Braxton on “The Racial Divide in America and in the Catholic Church”. He charges us to “Listen, Learn, Think, Pray, and Act.” We closed the evening with wonder sounds of Mrs. Tonya Dorsey and the NBCC Choir. What can I say but EXCELLENT. OH Yes, we got our praise on. AMEN.
I had to leave early on Sunday, so I did not attend Mass, but I know it was wonderful. At the end of the NBCC, my question where answerer. I want to thank God for allowing me to attend such a motivating and spiritual Congress. What a delight to see so many Black Catholics in one place for one theme.
Now I ask you, are you ready to meet, organize, lead and ACT.