Look forward, speaker says at Black Catholic Day of Reflection

CHARLESTON—Over 150 black Catholics reflected on their long history and look at ways to move forward in the Year of Faith during a Day of Reflection on Nov. 10.

The event also included the examination of a national pastoral plan for action from July’s National Black Catholic Conference in Indianapolis to see how it could be used to enrich their faith and evangelize. The event held at St. Patrick Church in Charleston was sponsored by the Office of Ethnic Ministries.

Members from 10 historically black parishes in the state discussed ways to focus on 10 core elements of faith, including personal holiness, affirming life and dignity of the human person, evangelization, Catholic education, and an increased focus on vocations and strengthening marriage and family.

They also learned about ways to use the lives of African American saints — and those still in the  canonization process — as role models.

The guest speaker was Grayson Warren Brown, a liturgical composer, author, and recording artist. He discussed the importance of appreciating different forms of Catholic liturgy. Brown Grayson Brownsaid many people have a need for liturgy that appeals to them emotionally as well as logically. Including traditional African-American gospel music and other elements in the Mass can help fulfill that need.

Brown also reflected on a radio broadcast he heard where a pastor was discussing the five signs of a dying church, and said that even though that pastor was Protestant, some of his concerns are reflected in the struggle to keep black Catholics involved in the church.

A church that wants to continue to grow and be relevant must be willing to accept and adapt to change while maintaining its tradition, he said.

“Any church that is in love with the past and always talking about the good old days is not going to last,” Brown said. “Christ lives today. If you spend all your time looking back, you’ll miss what he’s trying to say today.”

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone said the 10 elements of the pastoral plan offered many good suggestions for how to enrich life. He encouraged the participants to focus on building up the family and marriage because, he said, in most cases the family is the foundation that builds a strong faith and nurtures future vocations.

He said the message of the Gospel can be spread effectively by those who live it in daily life.

“We don’t have to get on a soapbox, we can give a simple invitation to others through the way we live in the community,” he said. “In every moment we can preach the goodness of Jesus Christ.”

Young people took part in a separate workshop and came up with their own plans for spreading the faith.

They said social media such as Facebook can be a useful way for youth groups to interact and plan activities, and suggested community service projects that promote Catholic values, such as respect for life and a commitment to the poor.