The Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry hosted its 35th annual African American Day of Reflection on Dec. 11 with a prayer service at St. Martin de Porres Church and workshops at the Catholic Enrichment Center.
This year, the day included an African American Catholic History Celebration, which was postponed from last month due to rising COVID-19 numbers.
The day of reflection was borne out of a desire to educate, inform and help those working with the Black Catholic community, said Annette Mandley Turner, executive director of the Multicultural Ministry Office.
“This predates the National Black Catholic Congress,” she noted during an interview about the event. The late “Archbishop (Thomas C.) Kelly was here and he wanted a way to bring Black Catholics together so he thought it would be good for us to have a gathering of some kind to do that.
“There was a desire to not only inform the people but the clergy as well as the religious, and at the same time to put us in alignment with where the ‘national church’ was going because they were talking about a congress but we felt that we needed to do something, we couldn’t just talk,” she said.
Mandley Turner said the annual day of reflection draws people from all over the Archdiocese of Louisville, including people from rural communities who have to travel to attend and often arrive early for the event.
“That speaks to their commitment and developing their faith,” she said. “I’m always so grateful when they come.”
This year’s theme was “Rooted in Our Faith.” The celebration opened with a prayer service led by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz who told those gathered that “there is a rich and glorious history that needs to be told in the African American community.”
Archbishop Kurtz spoke on the importance of gathering publicly to recall history. He reflected on four movements: remember and tell; give honor; lament; and to find ways to accept the gift of hope.
“Hope is not optimism,” the archbishop said. “Optimism says things will always get better. Hope is saying, ‘I will trust in God in good times and bad.’ The gift of faith is useless if we have it only in good times. When you’ve gotten to where you can’t trust anymore, that’s when you dig in and deepen your hope.”
Mandley Turner noted that because Archbishop Kurtz “has been a part of accompanying us on our journey, he’s able to really relate to what has happened in the past, what’s going on now, and then point us toward the future, and that’s what days of reflection is supposed to do.”
Following the prayer service, several workshops were offered next door to the church at the Catholic Enrichment Center.
Dr. Kathleen Dorsey Bellow, director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana, led workshops on “Racial Justice: We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest” and “Elder Leadership in the Black Catholic Community.”
Andrea Pannell, episcopal moderator of development and planning for the Diocese of Columbus, presented “If We Only Knew… .”
In the church, Deacon James Turner discussed “Where Do We Go From Here?”
“ ‘Where do we go from here’ may make people think we’re confused,” Deacon Turner said. “But we know we are products of strong African American men and women. We know two truths: who we are and whose we are.”
He called upon Black Catholics to persevere as those before them have, and called them “the most evangelistic brothers and sisters in the church.”
“Walk together, children. Don’t you get weary. A new day is coming.”