Black Catholics Day of Reflection focuses on stewardship

SUMTER – More than 170 priests, deacons and laity representing parishes, missions and schools around the state came to St. Jude Church on March 25 for the Office of Black Catholics Annual Day of Reflection.

Father Charles Donovan welcomed those attending the Day of Reflection, which included praise, songs, storytelling and activities that focused on promoting stewardship. Father Donald A. Sterling of the Archdiocese of Baltimore was the keynote speaker. He discussed experiences of stewardship and how to better understand the implications of this call through the Scriptures. He said that stewardship symbolizes God’s presence in people and takes shape in personal involvement “24/7.”

Franciscan Brother Henry Fulmer and seminarian David Fisher integrated the concepts of creativity and stewardship in their talk. They emphasized leadership skills and being responsible as the key to being great stewards. One of the goals of the workshop was to encourage youths to feel that they are also invited to be stewards in the church, whether as altar servers, lectors, greeters or choir members. The presenters also engaged the young people in creative stewardship activities focusing on music and dance popular among urban teens. The participants created dance steps to contemporary Christian music and developed a slogan for the Black Catholics Heritage Celebration, which will be Oct. 14 in Kingstree. The slogan is “Catholics Have It All.”

Franciscan Father Paul Williams, vicar for African-American Catholics, conducted the business segment of the day and drew applause after his report on new churches being built in African-American communities in the diocese. He also paid tribute to the contributions of Louis Fleming, one of the original visionaries for the establishment of the Office of Black Catholics in the Diocese of Charles-ton. Fleming, who spoke by telephone, acknowledged the honor and was touched by the presence of so many youth at the gathering. Father Williams read a letter from Sister Roberta Fulton, S.S., who wrote about the history of how Fleming and a core group of Catholic leaders across the state began the vision of an Office of Black Catholics in 1979. Richard Boisvert, the host of the event, was among that group.

In response to the need for better evangelization in the African-

American community, Father Williams announced that, with the support of Bishop Robert J. Baker, the evangelization of African-American Catholics will be on the agenda at the 2007 annual diocesan priests convocation. He also stressed the need for African-American Catholics to evangelize their own community.

“If we are going to pay off the mortgages on our new churches, we need to bring in folks to fill the pews,” he said. “It will take courage to change the current model of stewardship in our schools and churches in order to make us financially stable.”

People in the group voiced concerns about the need for outreach to college students, singles clubs and youth ministry, and increasing diversity in diocesan youth programs. There was a brief discussion on the capital campaign and its emphasis on Hispanic ministry.

The day concluded with Charlotte House, team leader for the National Black Catholic Congress, providing information on the upcoming Congress X in Buffalo, N.Y. Participants at the diocesan Day of Reflection were also encouraged to support the Interregional African American Catholic Evangelization Conference, set for Aug. 4-6 in Atlanta. The Diocese of Charleston will co-sponsor the conference, which will focus on the evangelization of youth and young adults. For information, go online to www.

Submitted by Kathleen Merritt, director of the Office of Ethnic Ministries, and Franciscan Sister Catherine Noecker, principal of St. Anthony of Padua School in Greenville.