Plan calls all to walk with black Catholics

Record Photo by Ruby Thomas
Parishioners recited the Lord’s Prayer during an opening Mass at the 33rd annual African American Catholic Day of Reflection and the 32nd annual African American Catholic History Celebration held Nov. 3 at the Catholic Enrichment Center on West Broadway. A new African American Pastoral Plan was unveiled that day.

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer

Though the new African American Pastoral Plan speaks directly to black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Louisville, local leaders say its success will rely on the collaboration of the whole local church.

Every parish in the archdiocese needs to be aware of the plan, said M. Annette Mandley-Turner, executive director of the Archdiocese of Louisville Office of Multicultural Ministry (OMM).

“Even if there’s one black Catholic, they need to know how to do ministry with them,” she said. “We can’t do this in isolation.”

The five-year plan identifies six priorities — spirituality and saints, leadership, vocations, racism and social justice, youth ministry and catechesis.

The plan was crafted from discussions at the 12th National Black Catholic Congress held in 2017, said Mandley-Turner.

She presented the plan to Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz during the annual African American Catholic Day of Reflection and African American Catholic History Celebration Nov. 3.

Archbishop Kurtz agreed that the plan needs the support of the whole church.

Though the plan highlights the “great gift of African American Catholics, it has to include every Catholic,” said  Archbishop Kurtz. “Anytime you do a plan the key is integration.”

Racism & Social Justice

The archbishop said that another new document — “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism” — approved by the U.S. bishops Nov. 14 will serve to “back up” the African American Pastoral Plan.

The plan lists racism and social justice as one of the six priorities.

Leadership

Archbishop Kurtz also noted that the plan will help call forth more leaders in the community like the late Sister of Charity of Nazareth Patricia Haley, a trailblazing sister, and William Hardin, a veteran of the Vietnam War and parishioner of Christ the King Church. They died last month within a day of each other.

Sister Haley was the first African American woman to enter the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and serve in the Archdiocese of Louisville. She spent her life in service to the African American community. Sister Haley died Nov. 27 at the age of 73.

Hardin, whose funeral the archbishop attended, was a leader in his parish serving in various areas, including the finance council and religious education. He died Nov. 28 at the age of 80.

The archbishop called Hardin and Sister Haley “prominent witnesses.”

“We need to call forth those witnesses to continue this participation in the life of the church,” he said.

Mandley-Turner said that she and members of the OMM staff will present and discuss the plan with offices and agencies in the archdiocese.

“The plan requires us to collaborate on a different level than before. Hopefully it will help others see that it’s okay to work with us, but let us take the lead,” said Mandley-Turner. “We want to consult to make sure we’re in alignment but don’t want them to do the work for us.”

Spirituality & Saints

The first priority named by the pastoral plan is spirituality and saints. Mandley-Turner said “Africentric spirituality is critical” to the other priorities.

The experience of liturgy and worship for African American Catholics is “deeply rooted in who we are as a people on a cultural and personal level,” she said. “People come seeking answers through their experiences. They need the word preached to them in a way they can internalize it and live it in their daily lives.”

Mandley-Turner added that being in touch with that cultural identity is important to evangelization.

“Evangelization calls us to share our relationship with Christ and how he’s working in our lives,” she said. “If we aren’t connected to our roots it makes it difficult to do that.”

Vocations

Loueva Moss — a parishioner of Christ the King Church and a leader in the faith community — recalled how being immersed in black culture during the National Black Catholic Congress in 1987 influenced her life.

“It was an awakening for me,” said Moss of being in the presence of so many black Catholic priests, bishops and religious women. “I’d never seen so many black Catholics in my life. It was overwhelming, because we’d never been exposed to that.

“I still hold that to the highest honor of my faith formation. It keeps me grounded,” she said.

In the area of vocations, the pastoral plan urges Catholics to “be open unconditionally to how to answer God’s call.”

Youth Ministry
and Catechesis

Youth ministry and catechesis are the fifth and sixth priorities identified in the pastoral plan. Catechists like Moss who serve at St. Augustine, St. Martin de Porres, Immaculate Heart of Mary and Christ the King churches — the four predominantly black churches in Louisville — make certain that “cultural sensitivity” is taken into account in the faith formation classes, said Moss.

“It’s not about teaching black and white, but it’s important that the children can identify with the pictures in the books.”

For kids preparing for the sacraments, it’s important to research saints with African roots, she noted.

Moss believes that when the youth understand their black Catholic history they become more “vested” in the faith and the church.

This teaches them that they’re not “new to this church,” said Mandley-Turner. “They have a place and are coming into a family much larger than they are. It’s important for them to make that connection.”

Mandley-Turner said that information and resources on black Catholic history will be shared with those in the archdiocese who are responsible for faith formation of black children outside the four West End parishes. She added that this knowledge is good for all Catholic children.

Moss added that the plan is “comprehensive and usable.”

“2019 will be a learning year for all of us,” she said. “It’s a guiding force and it’s up to us to use it and help to get ourselves at the table and be prepared for when decisions are made.”

The plan is meant to be implemented at least through 2023.

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