Over two thousand Catholics came together in Indianapolis, Indiana from July 19 to July 21 to participate in the 11th National Black Catholic Congress, an event held every five years. The Catholic community was well represented with folks coming from many of the parishes in the Central City of Milwaukee. They returned with great excitement for the future of the Catholic Church in the African American communities across the country.
They brought back with them a “Pastoral Plan of Action” designed to strengthen the participation of African Americans in all levels of participation in the church. There are ten major areas or core elements that are presented to strengthen the Black Catholic communities to better be able to “spread the Good News.”
Among the ten major points in the Pastoral Plan, there is one paragraph that I would like to quote as being of significant importance to me: “We commit ourselves to invite those who have left the Church to prayerfully consider ‘coming home.’ We encourage the adaptation of successful Catholic evangelization programs to the specific needs of African Americans.”
From my experience in the African American community starting in 1965 at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church on Second and Burleigh, I have seen the Black Catholic population decline. There are as many reasons as there are persons who left, I know. One strategic event that happened that did exacerbate the decline was the closing of many Catholic churches. This was traumatic for many people and many did not register at the parishes that remained.
Certainly there were many other reasons why folks drifted away from the Catholic Church—too many to enumerate here. But I am not deterred from calling our brothers and sisters back to the fold. I am not suggesting that we raid other churches to accomplish this. Certainly many of our Catholics have joined other churches and are living the Christian life in an exemplary way. No, I am calling back the many who have not become active in any church, they have no church.
I personally welcome all African American Catholics to return to the family, no shame, no guilt, no questions asked, just joy and celebration. And if the Church did anything to hurt you, we ask for forgiveness and reconciliation.
Please come join us any Sunday at 8:00 or 10:30 AM. We are located at 4051 N. 25th Street, just north of Capitol Drive, in the heart of the city.