Black Catholics contemplate new ways to share the faith

COLUMBIA—Participants at the Black Catholic Day of Reflection contem­plated the past, and considered new ways to share their faith and strengthen the community.

The event, held April 29 at St. Martin de Porres Church, drew 52 people, many of them members of historically black parishes.

Much of the discussion during the day focused on the ongoing “Living Like Saints,” a pastoral plan for the evangelization of African-American Catholics in the diocese that started in 2013 and runs through 2018.

Kathleen Merritt, director of the diocesan Office of Ethnic Ministries, which sponsored the event, said the plan was put into place as a result of a national pastoral call for ac­tion developed at the 11th National Black Catholic Congress in 2012. She said 26 people from the diocese will attend the 12th congress, sched­uled for July 6-9 in Orlando. At that gathering, clergy and laypeople will discuss the pastoral plan’s results and determine a way to build on it to carry evangelization nationwide.

Merritt presented the results of a survey she conducted earlier this year that asked participants how their parishes responded to a vari­ety of issues mentioned in the plan, including evangelizing youth and young adults, nurturing Catholic education, and strengthening mar­riage and families.

Many respondents indi­cated parishes were doing a good job of making the sacraments available, pro­moting pro-life activities, focusing on social justice, and promoting catechesis with activities such as Bible study, Merritt said.

One issue of concern was that a majority of people indicated their parishes had no specific ministry geared toward marriage and family issues, she said.

“This shows us that par­ishes aren’t doing much to assist with the black family, and this is some­thing we need to address,” Merritt said. Many respondents also indicated the number of youth and young adults regularly attending Mass had declined in the past 10 years.

During the afternoon, several speakers offered reflection on spiri­tual and social issues.

Deacon James Williams, who at­tends St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, led a session to discuss ways attendees can improve their spiritual lives both at the par­ish and family level. He encouraged participants to receive the Eucharist as often as possible and participate in adoration of the Blessed Sacra­ment.

“As Catholics we can’t do anything without the Eucharist,” he said. “It is our food, our nourishment, and through it we are commissioned to go out and spread the Gospel.”

Sister Roberta Fulton, principal of St. Martin de Porres School, talked about the importance of nurturing marriage and family life at the par­ish level. She said it is up to older members of the congregation to reach out to younger people to make sure they know they are needed and wanted in church.

“We need to see ourselves as people who have to mentor young people, to take them under our wing and show a real commitment to them,” Sister Roberta said.

Other sessions focused on social justice, the importance of history, and building community.

Top photo: Sister Roberta Fulton (left), principal of St. Martin de Porres School in Columbia, talks with participants at the Black Catholic Day of Reflection held April 29 at St. Martin de Porres Church.

Photos provided: Kathleen Merritt (left), director of the Office of Ethnic Ministries, listens to a participant at the event.