By JESSICA ABLE
Record Staff Writer
More than 600 individuals attending the 25th annual African American Catholic Leadership Awards Banquet March 3 heard Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory call them to proclaim the message of Christ to the entire world.
The banquet, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Minis-try, was held at the Louisville Marriott Downtown. In its quarter-century history, the annual banquet has been used to recognize African American Catholic leadership efforts throughout the archdiocese.
All proceeds from the event go toward a scholarship fund that assists African American Catholic youth with high school and college educational costs.
Archbishop Gregory, who is Archbishop of Atlanta and a former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the banquet at-tendees that the greatest challenge for the church today — especially the African American Catholic community — is proclaiming Christ.
“All Catholics, as Pope John Paul suggested, need to be jarred into a realization that the past dynamic of having the faith passed on to a new generation as a neutral transition has waned, if not vanished completely,” said the archbishop, who headed the U.S. bishops’ conference from 2001 to 2004.
“The Catholic faith that seemingly once passed effortlessly from one generation to another now confronts … many obstacles and quite effective challenges,” he said. “We all must be engaged in the work of spreading the faith as an activity that commands both creativity and determination on all our parts.”
Throughout his address, Archbishop Gregory asked the question, “Where do we go from here?”
“Where will the next generation of African American Catholics come from if not through creative and determined efforts of today’s Catholic people?” he asked. They are people “who must invite to the Lord’s church those who have not yet heard Christ’s call or may have forgotten the invitation.”
“We African American Catholics have a responsibility to welcome those who remain on the fringes of the church and who have never been formally or effectively invited to take that step which draws them to full membership,” he added.
Archbishop Gregory noted that even for African Americans for whom church leadership and membership was closely tied to the struggle of freedom and justice, there is a spirit of disengagement. With the passing of two of the icons of the civil rights era — Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King — the African American community at large, he said, is facing a momentous and potentially energizing issue of “where do we go from here.”
“African American Catholics must ask a similar question at the dawn of the new millennium,” he said, noting that “we have passed the age when great numbers of African Americans entered the church via Catholic schools.”
“Just how does the church evangelize a society that is increasing secular, frequently skeptical of any institutional organization and seemingly quite content with an individualistic approach to the transcendent?” he said. The question, he noted, “is more complex than merely a marketing tactic.”
Archbishop Gregory said that those who come into genuine contact with Christ cannot keep him for themselves. “They must proclaim him,” he said.
He said this outreach must be done with respect and sensitivity to the diversity of cultures. The values of diverse people should not be rejected, but purified and brought to their fullness.
“The responsibility that we African American Catholics have for being the evangelizers who welcome and guarantee a future generation of black Catholics is serious indeed,” he said.
“We African American Catholics have come a long way during the past generation; we have much farther to go. Our greatest challenge, in my humble opinion, is that of evangelization, which is a vitally important responsibility that we share with all the rest of church.
“As the church confronts the trials and utilizes the advantages of a still-new millennium, African American Catholics should take heart that as the hymn reminds us, ‘we come this far by faith, and that faith is strong enough to lead us into tomorrow.’ ”
The 2012 Acacia awards — one of the banquet’s annual highlights — were presented to Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Bertharene Young of the Diocese of Memphis and Clinton Bennett, owner of Clinton Bennett Photography & Video Services. The Acacia award was established in 1989 by M. Annette Mandley-Turner, executive director of the Office of Multicultural Ministry, to recognize an individual or organization for their years of service, support and fidelity to the African American Catholic community.
Edna Lillian Coleman of St. Martin de Porres Church was presented the Genevieve Boone Award. This award recognizes an individual who exhibits a high level of commitment to his/her faith and to the African American community.
African American Catholic Leadership Awards were presented to Marvina Lewis of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church; Eugene Broadus, Peg’O Shaw and Margaret Staples of St. Augustine Church in Louisville; Terry Hickman and Flora Clark of St. Monica Church in Bardstown, Ky.; George Smalley of St. Augustine Church in Lebanon, Ky; Evelyn Glass of Christ the King Church; Jamesetta Elery of St. Ignatius Church; and Glenn Miles of St. Martin de Porres Church.
Six young people were given the Rodriq McCravy scholarship award. Michael Wright of St. Monica, Bardstown, Ky., will receive a scholarship to a Catholic high school.
Those receiving college scholarships were Jeffrey Mitchell Jr. of St. Martin de Porres; Maya Hardin of Christ the King; Donte Beausejour of St. Martin de Porres; Zana Yocum of Holy Rosary Church in Springfield, Ky.; and Jalen Phillips of St. Monica in Bardstown, Ky.