Black Catholic Heritage Celebration set for June

GREENVILLE — The diocesan Office of Black Catholics has scheduled its major festivity of the year for June 11-12 in Columbia. The Black Catholics Heritage Celebration 2004 will offer something for everyone.

This year’s theme for the Celebration is “A Salute to Cath-olic Education,” which was the vision of Franciscan Father Paul Williams, vicar for African-American Catholics.

“Catholic education is really important,” said Kathleen Merritt, director of the Office of Ethnic Ministries. “We want to encourage all our black brothers and sisters to attend Catholic school. And we wish to support our predominantly African-American Catholic schools, which always struggle financially.”

To lead young Catholics in that direction, Merritt and the 130 or so parishioners actively working with the Office of Black Catholics decided to offer them a lot to occupy both mind and body during their part of the celebration. Festivities start at the Embassy Suites Friday night as Deacon Henry Fulmer of St. Martin de Porres School leads a discussion on “Living as a Catholic youth in the Hip-Hop culture.” That will be followed by art and poetry contests for middle and high school students, a liturgical dance workshop and a dance party. The entire evening was designed by youth themselves at a January meeting, Merritt said.

While the kids are partying at the hotel, the adults will be participating in an educational forum at St. Martin de Porres School. Participants are asked to read three books in preparation for the forum, including “The Mis-Education of the Negro,” a 1950s-era treatise written by Carter G. Woodson that is designed to provoke debate about how things have changed in the intervening decades.

“We expect a lot of audience participation, along with our panel of experts. Folks who come can even get credit for participating,” Merritt said.

On Saturday, June 12, things really heat up. The youth track includes “The College Caper,” following a prayer service and breakfast at the Embassy Suites. After that, the kids go to Riverbanks Zoo for an outing. The cost for the entire weekend for a youth is $25, including the zoo trip. And the Embassy Suites is offering special room rates for those from out of town.

Adults will go to workshops at the hotel on Saturday, including “Spreading the Good News through Peace and Justice” and “The New Evangelization: Young Adult Black Catholics.” The first workshop will be led by the director of Peace and Justice Ministry of the Diocese of Fort Worth and the second by a duo, Merritt and Leland Cave. Merritt and Cave are surveying young Catholic adults and are going to services at “churches where young adults flock,” Merritt said, to observe techniques for drawing them in. They will release the data they collect at the workshop.

After that dose of reality, celebration participants will adjourn to St. Peter Church, the mother church of the Midlands, for a liturgy which will be presided over by Bishop Robert J. Baker and a visiting bishop, Bishop George V. Murry, a Jesuit and the ordinary of the Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Bishop Murry holds master’s degrees and a doctorate and has been both a professor and an administrator of the University of Detroit.

At the banquet that evening, Bishop Murry will be the keynote speaker. Youth art will be displayed, the popular historical photo exhibit will be set up and the Junior Voices of Padua will sing. Dancing will follow the meal.

Charlotte House of St. Martin de Porres, the host parish, is the chair of the Black Catholics Heritage Celebration for 2004. Catholics of all ethnicities are invited to what promises to be an informative and enjoyable weekend, she said. The workshops fee is $10, and the banquet cost is $30.

For information
Contact Kathleen Merritt at (864) 234-9009 ext. 118; her e-mail is; or go online for a registration form to