Bellarmine hosts Black Catholic Theological Symposium

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

Dr. Diana Hayes
Dr. Diana Hayes

The Black Catholic Theological Symposium, which began its 24th meeting at Bellarmine University Oct. 3, heard that sometimes wisdom can be found in the souls of those who’ve never been exposed to a formal education.

Dr. Diana Hayes, professor emerita of systemic theology at Georgetown University, presented a lecture titled “Standing in the Shoes my Mother Made: The Making of a Catholic Womanist Theologian.”

The symposium is a U.S.-based international association of Catholic professional theologians and scholars of African descent. At the annual meetings, members gather to discuss their research as well as their academic and pastoral projects.

In her lecture, Hayes recalled that her mother taught her to read at the age of three. Despite her mother’s lack of formal education, Hayes said her mother was one of the most intelligent women she knew.

“It was an intelligence grounded in a wisdom that came from deep within them borne of their experience of being black and female in the rural South,” Hayes said. “She and our other ‘sheroes’ of faith somehow prepared us and provided us with whatever it was that we needed to survive.”

Hayes continued, “Somehow they wove a tapestry of strength and protection and constructed shoes made for walking in unknown worlds. … I stand today in the shoes my mother made.”

Hayes said that as a “womanist” she believes her rights as an African American and as a woman are guaranteed only when the rights of all people are guaranteed.

“We speak a new and challenging word borne out of centuries-long struggles to be free women created in the image and likeness of a loving God, as all women and indeed all of humanity have been created,” she said.

Hayes said she was astounded to learn the African influence on Christianity in its earliest beginnings, especially the significant role Africans played in preserving and passing on the Christian faith in northern and East Africa.

“It was exhilarating to learn … of the Christian and Catholic King Afonso whose son became the first indigenous central African bishop,” she explained. She said it was also a revelation to learn of the role St. Moses the Black played in establishing monasticism in the Egyptian desert.

Hayes challenged the church and the black community to be supportive of black women who seek to be leaders in the church today.

“There is still too much that still needs to be done for us to divide along religious and lay, degree and non-degree, Protestant and Catholic lines,” she said.

Hayes also called on black Catholic women to regain their voices.

“They must continue to be voices that speak when others are afraid to,” she said. “It’s long past time for black women to reclaim their voices. As a Catholic ‘womanist’ I insist our voices never again be silenced or marginalized. We must continue to speak out.”

The Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry closed the symposium with a traditional listening session Oct. 5 at the Catholic Enrichment Center.

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