National group meets in Pittsburgh

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Black Catholic administrators share ways to enhance ministry

Phil Taylor
Associate Editor

The National Association for Black Catholic Administrators was recently in Pittsburgh for its annual meeting.

The group, which consists of various directors of diocesan and archdiocesan offices that deal with black Catholic ministries, met Sept. 21-24 at the Radisson Greentree Hotel. Some directors have a dual role and are responsible for the church's ministry with other ethnic communities.

While in Pittsburgh, the administrators had the opportunity to attend a morning liturgy offered by Bishop David Zubik Sept. 22 at the hotel. Afterward, they had a brief opportunity to meet the bishop.

The administrators discuss at their yearly meeting efforts in their respective dioceses and ways to better enhance their ministry under the leadership of their bishops.

Representatives from Connecticut, Illinois, Texas and Washington, D.C., as well as other states, were on hand.

"We act as representatives, as a body, of over 2 million black Catholics," said Deacon Arthur Miller, association president, who directs the Office for Black Catholic Ministries in Bloomfield, Conn.

He said the meetings are an opportunity to discuss and share with other directors and get a feel for what's being said and going on in the national black Catholic community.

Greta Stokes Tucker, who directs the Pittsburgh Diocese's Department for Black Catholics, Ethnic and Cultural Communities, said the group discussed several topics at the meeting, including evangelization, poverty (from the view of U.S. bishops), vocations, marriage and the sacramental nature of the family.

"Evangelization is always discussed. It is a 'thread' in all our offices," said Tucker, who noted that sharing the faith is emphasized at every level of ministry to the African-American community. NABCA also has its own evangelization committee.

Deacon Miller said black Catholics make their own gift to the diversity and universality of the church by enhancing it.

"Because we exist, our Catholic Church needs us to be us, and so the church is alive simply because we are. We are bound by our obligations, we are bound by our obligations as Catholics to keep the church alive," the deacon said.

Tucker and Deacon Miller view poverty in America as a human life issue.

"We see that in our parishes, we see it in our food banks," she said.

"Now is the time to keep our eyes open. Unstop our ears, speak with and for those who have no voice. We prayed together as well as posed those important questions about evangelization in the African-American community. We must continue to put the needs of the poor first on our agendas," said Sister of St. Mary of Namur Roberta Fulton, who is with the National Black Sisters' Conference. The conference is affiliated with NABCA.

According to Tucker, most NABCA administrators maintain contact with local and national groups with similar purposes and goals, including the National Black Catholic Congress and The Congress Inter-Regional African American Catholic Evangelization Conference.

Deacon Miller, who serves on a national board that examines health care disparities in America, said African-Americans suffer disproportionately in many areas, including poverty, unemployment (the national average is 9 percent, 14.8 percent among U.S. blacks), health care, crime and violence, and education.

Referring to those issues as "plagues" affecting African-Americans, Deacon Miller said, "We recognize that we have to lift up the entire community when we evangelize."

Originally from Chicago, Deacon Miller said he went to school with Emmet Till, the 14-year-old who was brutally murdered in 1955 while visiting relatives in the South. The teen's "crime" was talking and maybe even whistling at a white woman in a grocery store. His mutilated body was later recovered from the Tallahatchie River near Money, Miss.

The cruelty of the killing struck a chord across the nation, and the national media picked up the story. Some believe this horrific death helped spark the civil rights movement.

Deacon Miller said his brother shared a class with Till, and his murder greatly affected him.

The deacon said that many young men and women, particularly minorities, are continually attracted to the church for its social justice stands, just as he was. Some, he said, want to be on the front lines of the church in working to better serve their communities.

"They are drawn to social justice. They're burning up with the Holy Spirit, they want to act," Deacon Miller said.

But he said when it comes to church vocations among men and women of color he admits that nationally "We are way behind."

The administrators also participated in a "sweat equity" experience at Corpus Christi Church, which is part of St. Charles Lwanga Parish in Pittsburgh's East End.

"Together with the parishioners, we revived the physical and spiritual beauty of this house of God. I left there feeling the presence of the Lord," said Sister Roberta.