NBCC XII Reflections – First Time Attendee

By Patrick Rogers, Martin de Porres Church

The National Black Catholic Congress XII, which was held in Orlando, Florida, was the first congress that I attended. Two themes that impacted me during the Congress were Black Catholic History and using our faith to challenge social realities.

In the workshop, Wisdom from the Black Catholic History, led by Paula Manchester.  This session exposed us to the seminal figures such as Fr. Cyprian Davis and Dr. Camille Brown whose research efforts were pivotal in documenting the History of Black Catholics.  Also, the attendees were acquainted with a seminal document: “What We have Seen and Heard” which was written in 1984 by the ten black bishops in the United States.  While the session informed us of the current scholarship, it was noted that there is plenty of room for more scholarship in this area.  This session led me to reflect on possible ways in which we can continue to not only document our story, but share it as well.

During black catholic history month, we could take a moment to discuss the development of the Lead Me Guide Me hymnal.  The documents in the introduction section of the hymnal illustrate that this collaborative effort of scholars who were highly knowledgeable in both black culture and catholic liturgy in an effort to provide the Catholic Church with a compendium of songs that are truly black and catholic.  Secondly, we can the highlight black catholic history from Philadelphia, such as the baptism of Josephine Louisa whose baptism was listed as May 1, 1796, the history of St. Peter Claver parish, and the development of periodicals like The Journal to document black catholic news and black issues.

A second theme that stuck out for me was the application of our faith as we deal with the social issues that affect our community.  In the men’s retreat, Mr. Damon Owens used Ephesians 5:21-33 as the key text for the retreat.  In this text, Paul discusses the relationship between the husband and wife as a metaphor for how Christ loves the Church.  From this passage, versus 28b-29 impacted me the most.  In these verses, Paul says the following: “He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes it and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church…”

When I saw these versus, I see the importance of self- love.  Without self-love, we will have difficulty emulating Christ in our love for others. Our society can present many road blocks to self-love including the perception that African Americans are inherently dangerous and threatening.  Nationally this can be represented by the one year commemoration of the killing of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.  Locally, the recent killing of David Jones and the reported “Untold Story of Stop and Frisk” bring these barriers close to home.  Dr. Tricia Bent-Goodley, in her presentation, “Black Family: Challenges and Opportunities” reminded us of the importance of seeking mental health and that just as God provides physicians, dentists, and optometrists to help us maintain healthy bodies, teeth, and eyes respectively. God also provides mental health professionals to aid us in maintaining a healthy mind.    Without taking the steps to heal ourselves we can be susceptible to harming those we love.

By taking a holistic approach to our health, we can demonstrate Christs love to others.  Some examples can include praying for the family of David Jones, Brandon Tate-Brown and the many men in our community who have been harmed by policies like Stop and Frisk in the Prayers of the Faithful.  Also, we can place crosses outside our parish to call attention to each life lost in our community to violence as a fellow black catholic parish, Saint Columba Catholic Church, Oakland does each year.

In conclusion, I thank the Martin de Porres Foundation, Fr. Thorne, Sr. Lynn Marie Ralph, and Deacon Bradley for helping me to attend the Congress XII.