In the wake of Charlottesville and the national examination of conscience on racism it’s inspired, it is especially newsworthy that America’s largest organization for African-American Catholics is both developing a new pastoral plan for itself, and also contributing to a forthcoming letter from the U.S. bishops on race.
Both initiatives were announced in a letter by Bishop John Ricard, formerly of Pensacola-Tallahassee in Florida and currently the president of the National Black Congress.
In his Aug. 29 letter, Ricard also said that the group is ramping up its website to offer online resources for the national discussion on race, including plans to offer a series of webinars.
“It is very clear that it is incumbent on us to take those steps that we dared dream about and envisioned,” Ricard wrote. “After a month of turmoil and shocking scenes, with white supremacist protests ending in the murder of a woman, many Catholics, among others, have been wondering what the next steps will be.”
These initiatives come in tandem with the creation of a new committee on race by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, designed to “focus on addressing the sin of racism in our society, and even in our Church, and the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions.”
“Recent events have exposed the extent to which the sin of racism continues to inflict our nation,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the conference, in a statement presenting the new committee.
The committee will be chaired by Bishop George V. Murry, SJ of Youngstown, Ohio, and anticipates releasing a new pastoral letter on racism in 2018.
In Orlando, Florida this July, the National Black Catholic Congress held an event titled, “The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me: act justly, love goodness, and walk humbly with your God.” They’ve staged these gatherings every five years since 1987.
Ricard’s letter called the event a success, but cautioned that “since Congress XII, we have witnessed events in Charlottesville, Virginia…We have witnessed the response of the leadership of our country…”
The NBCC, according to their website “is comprised of member organizations, represents African American Roman Catholics, working collaboratively with National Roman Catholic organizations.”
Ricard’s letter also urges members of the NBCC that in order to realize “the vision of a Church and community which is open to all, and in which all are affirmed,” three steps will be taken in the next few months.
- The development of the Pastoral Plan of Action – This refers to a document being put together by a committee coming out of Congress XII and consisting of guidelines to be studied and applied to “homes, parishes, dioceses, and organizations as appropriate.”
- The USCCB’s Pastoral Letter on Racism – This document will be presented in November 2018. Ricard asks that people take “the initiative to read and reflect upon it…engaging in the efforts to implement its vision.”
- The development of the Congress website (nbccongress.org) to assist with offering guidance and direction – This website will have a series of webinars on topics discussed in Orlando. “These webinars will be a forum for further discussion and development of the issues.”
Some of the proposed topics for the webinar series include, mass incarceration and its effects “on the black community, the black family and black employment;” domestic violence and its prevention and effects “on Black family life;” youth and young adults and developing more welcoming parishes for them; social justice and the issues facing the nation and requiring attention; and the bishops’ ad hoc committee against racism and how to offer support to it.