By Glenn Rutherford, Record Editor
The 26th annual African American Catholic Leadership Awards Banquet paid homage to both its past and its future during the March 2 event at the Seelbach Hilton Hotel.
The banquet, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry (OMM), presented its highest honor — the 2013 Acacia Award — to St. Joseph Society of the Sacred Heart Bishop John H. Ricard and to Church of the Epiphany parishioner Greg Tichenor.
The award to Bishop Ricard marked a tribute to the very founding of the annual awards banquet, which grew from the 1987 meeting of the National Black Catholic Congress — which was led by Bishop Ricard.
“In fact there is a very good chance that if it were not for Bishop Ricard’s leadership with the Congress, we would never
be having this annual event here in the Archdiocese of Louisville,” said M. Annette Mandley-Turner, executive director of the OMM.
“The Acacia Award is about being the foundation, the rock, on which our religious community can stand,” she said. And both of this year’s winners, she added, met that definition.
Bishop Ricard’s leadership, Mandley-Turner noted, inspired people to return from Washington D.C. in 1987 “on fire” to spread the news not only of Jesus Christ’s message, but the presence in the church of a
vibrant — and vital — black Catholic community. “He challenged us to affirm our faith, and to be a part of the Black Catholic Congress,” she added.
Bishop Ricard’s presence in Louisville, Mandley-Turner said, “sends a message to the Catholic Church in the rest of the U.S.A.” that African American Catholics in this archdiocese are still filled with the encouragement the bishop’s leadership has provided.
Upon receiving his award, Bishop Ricard, who is bishop emeritus of Pensacola-Tallahasee, Fla., noted that the March 2 event “is certainly one of the finest, in terms of participation of black Catholics, that I’ve attended.”
“I’m impressed with this wonderful place you have here,” he said, referring to the Louisville community. “It reminds me of what John F. Kennedy said about Washington, D.C., when he first arrived there. He said that city was an impressive combination of southern charm and northern efficiency.”
Bishop Ricard also said that it was “great to see young people here accepting awards,” and noted their importance to the continued strength of the Catholic Church in the nation.
“I’m anxious to see that our ancient faith is passed on to our young people, something that is very difficult to do in this society of ours,” he said. “As African American Catholics, we have a particular burden to pass our faith along, because let’s be honest, a lot of Catholics — and even some black Catholics — don’t think we belong in the Catholic Church.”
Yet the ties of African Americans to the church reach back centuries, he noted, citing the example of the Catholic Church’s presence in Ethiopia, where that nation’s emperor Haile Selassie claimed a lineage that stretched all the way back to Solomon.
“Ethiopia experienced the roots of Christian faith long before European missionaries arrived,” he explained. “So never doubt, young people, that your Catholic faith is deeply rooted in your DNA” as descendants of Africa.
The Acacia Award presented to Greg Tichenor speaks to the OMM’s continuing efforts to bridge racial, economic and social gaps between residents of the local community. Tichenor has been active in tutoring children at the Catholic Enrichment Center on West Broadway and has been a part of programs such as “Moving Toward Oneness,” “Crossing the Social Divide,” and “Undoing Racism.”
In fact, in his acceptance speech, Tichenor noted that his educational and professional experience in economics and finance showed clearly “the economic disparity that some in our society tell us to overlook.”
He said his goal is to end racism by “building those much-needed bridges to racial and social equality in our community.” Working as a tutor at the Catholic Enrichment Center has allowed him to “grow personally and to help others move beyond charity toward works of empowerment.”
Stella Porter of St. Augustine Church in Lebanon, Ky., was presented this year’s Genevieve Boone Award. African American Catholic Leadership Award winners were Charlotte Alexander of Christ the King Church; Shan Hermitt and Adriene Taylor-Mitchell of St. Martin de Porres Church; James Mason and Marion Smith of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church; Ellen Lydian and Carolyn Payne of St. Monica Church; Mary Shoulders of St. Bartholomew Church; and Dr. Daryl Williams of St. Augustine Church in Louisville.
Winners of the 2013 Rodriq McCravy Awards for high school scholarships were Dieon Ali Montgomery of Christ the King Church and Sydney Williams of St. Augustine Church in Louisville. College scholarship McCravy Award winners were Tori Burrus of St. Augustine Church in Louisville; Stephanie Henry of St. Martin de Porres Church; Timothy Alexander Marshall of Holy Rosary Church; Marie-Ange Mbumba of St. Bernadette Church; Sharriff T. O. Moore and Morgan D. Talley of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church and Taylor Alexis Marie Theodore of St. Pius X Church.