Black Catholic leaders hear encouraging news


ANDERSON — To prepare participants for the National Black Catholic Congress, scheduled for Baltimore in August, the Black Catholic Caucus of the Diocese of Charleston held a retreat at St. Mary of the Angels Parish June 7. Father Damian Lynch of the Diocese of Charlotte was the retreat master.

Participants in the retreat also learned news about African American Catholics in South Carolina, including the fact that the Caucus has worked itself out of a job.

“It is our hope that by the end of this month we will have a coordinator for the Office of Black Catholic Ministry,” said Father Paul Williams, diocesan vicar for African-American Catholics. “The office itself will be officially established on July first. At that time, we will cease to exist.”

The vicar said that the Black Catholic Caucus performed commendably in its foundational role and that an advisory board formed to assist the new director will include members of the Caucus. Father Williams also praised the efforts of the bishop of Charleston.

“What’s happening is what’s coming out of us. This group did well. Bishop (David B.) Thompson has taken a very active leadership role, although we expected him to be more of a figurehead at first. But we can all honestly say that we never felt any dominance by the bishop,” he said.

Sister Susan Schorsten, HM, social ministry director for the diocese, said that the planning for Black Catholics is on schedule

. “We’re where we had planned to be. The Black Catholic Task Force has developed a pastoral plan and we have some good candidates for the director position,” Sister Susan said.

The draft of that pastoral plan accentuates the connection between it and the vision of the Church of Charleston as stated in the pastoral letter, “Enthusiasm for the Faith.” The Diocesan Black Catholics Pastoral Plan was written by Sherman Gaskins and Ernestine Harris and outlines seven major goals.

After the business portion of the gathering, Father Lynch led a retreat. He exhorted the participants in the retreat to even greater efforts, if in a less official capacity. The retreat master read the consecration prayer from Matthew 26 and said that all people are called to be the bread of life, just as Jesus was called. He compared Jesus to the physical bread of the Eucharist; both were chosen, blessed, broken and given to the world, he said.

“We mirror the presence of God in the world,” the Charlotte priest said. “We also are chosen, blessed, broken and given to the world.”

His talk was themed on those four aspects of the bread of life.

Father Damian Lynch is associate pastor of Our Lady of Consolation Parish in the Diocese of Charlotte, the first black man ever ordained for that North Carolina diocese. Father Williams said in introducing him that the vicar general of Charlotte called Father Lynch “the best preacher in the entire diocese.”

The 42 people attending the retreat seemed by their responses to his preaching to agree that he was good.