Black ‘family reunion’ emphasizes unity among all Catholics

GREENVILLE—Black Catholics are united not only by heritage and history, but also through the sacraments.

That was the key lesson ValLimar Jansen and other speakers shared with more than 300 people from around the state who attended the annual Black Catholics’ Heritage Celebration in Greenville April 5-6.

The theme was “Family Reunion 2013,” and discussions focused on how the faithful should recognize other Catholics as part of a larger spiritual family united through belief in Christ and the power of the Eucharist.

Jansen, a singer, songwriter and recording artist who also frequently speaks on Catholic liturgy and worship, led a vibrant session April 6 that used music, storytelling and audience participation to stress the unique nature of Catholic unity.

“Our one baptism makes us all family … we belong to the same family and come from the same Father,” she said. “We cannot grow tired of each other because we’re all walking the same road of faith together, connected for eternity.”

Jansen said access to the sacraments can help people get through any of life’s trials. Confession, she said, is especially important because it offers a path back to oneness in God’s family that can be damaged through sin.

“Remember that nothing can separate us from God,” she said. “His love is greater than any circumstance. When we participate in reconciliation and we’re back in oneness with God … you can know beyond any doubt that He is with us, He knows all about us and loves us still.”

Jansen said black Catholics will be challenged on a daily basis by today’s culture, especially because, as a denomination, they are a minority not only in the black community but in the Southeast as a whole.

“Our belief does not always bring us good times,” she said. “It’s not easy to be a Roman Catholic in the South. We must take this faith of ours and go out every day expecting to see Jesus in the face of the strangers we meet, and expecting to love everyone as God instructed us. We need to recall that in the Eucharist, we’re being formed by Jesus who is present, filled and transformed by the real presence of Jesus.”

Special breakout sessions on April 6 offered men, women and young people the chance to talk about issues specific to their experience. The “Men’s Cave” focused on helping men learn how to develop faith-filled relationships in the family, the parish, and the business world. Women took part in a session called “In My Mother’s House,” where they discussed values garnered from their mothers, teachers and important women in their lives, plus how to pass knowledge about faith and morals to today’s young women.

Photos: Jansen(top); Jacquelyn Lambert (left) and Martha Harris (right), both of Greenville,  share a moment of laughter during the Black Catholic Family Reunion on April 6.