Black Catholics come together to ‘share the spirit’


GREENVILLE — A spiritual blaze is beginning to burn in the hearts of the black community, and Catherine Fleming Bruce is not only igniting that faith, she’s fanning its flames.

Fleming Bruce is coordinator of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry in the diocese. Her mission is to bring black Catholics together, help them to learn, understand and know their faith, then lead them out into their neighborhoods and teach them how to evangelize.

“Evangelization to me means we are doing a transformation from the inside out,” Fleming Bruce said. “That means you have to know your religion. You have to feed yourselves inside … and know who you are as a people.”

Fleming Bruce has her work cut out for her. She said there are only two black priests, five black deacons and two black Catholic schools in the diocese.

So she is starting almost from the ground floor, but she is up to the task. Now Fleming Bruce has enlisted the leaders of the black Catholic community to feel the fire of their faith and help her spread it.

Last week she held a conference at St. Anthony of Padua Church and invited the elders of the community to join her.

Then she introduced them to each other and had them tell their faith stories.

“If you have testimony, tell it,” Fleming Bruce said. “That is how we learn.”

It was the first in a series of conferences to canvass the state. And it was held at St. Anthony’s because Father Paul Williams, the pastor, has been at the forefront of the mission to bring blacks into the Catholic fold.

“We are the church of Christ,” Father Williams said.

He believes these elders will work hard to foster the faith. “The Holy Spirit is calling us,” he told them. “The only way we can build the Kingdom of God is by working together.”

That is where Fleming Bruce comes in. With a diocesan office, she can now coordinate their efforts.

“Our purpose today is to share the spirit and support each other,” she said.

Fleming Bruce wants to form evangelization teams and spearhead activities that generate enthusiasm for the faith. She also wants outreach programs and a diocesan-wide network that keeps the lines of communication open and a free-flow of ideas pouring in.

“We have to interact and share ideas,” she said. “We need to reach out. We need to make connections.”

She wants to develop programs where the youth of the church can learn the tradition and history of the faith. Only then can they build on it, she said.

And Fleming Bruce is putting a premium on schools. That is where our young people learn, she said. And they are the future.

It is the job of Fleming Bruce to make sure that she leaves the future in the hands of those who feel the fire of faith and are committed to fanning its flames.