University of Notre Dame Hosts Joint Conference of National Black Catholic Clergy and Religious | News | Notre Dame News

Basilica steeple and setting moon (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

The University of Notre Dame hosted the annual joint conference of national organizations of Black Catholic clergy, nuns, deacons, and seminarians July 24-28.

The event included three days of private joint sessions and individual meetings of National Black Catholic Clergy Caucusthe National Conference of Black Sistersthe National Association of Black Catholic Deacons and the National Association of Black Catholic Seminarians.

Inspired by the title of a traditional African-American hymn, the conference theme was “Walk Together Children”. Participants focused on gathering for reflection, study, conversation, planning and prayer in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing political and religious polarization, rising racial tensions and dwindling resources to support black Catholic evangelism – all of which have had a significant impact on their roles as ministers in black and Catholic communities.

“The University of Notre Dame has defined itself, particularly under the late President Theodore Hesburgh, as ‘the place where the Church thinks,'” said Dianne Pinderhughes, professor of African studies and political science. “Bringing a range of Black clergy to campus allowed us to explore the complicated and challenging thinking that takes place among Black Catholic religious organizations, as well as their religious worship practices.

“African Americans make up only about 4 percent of Catholic adults in the United States, so it was especially important for the religious and academic leaders at Notre Dame to have this opportunity to learn about the interests, ideas, practices spiritual beliefs and values ​​of this network of African-American clergy, nuns, deacons and seminarians.

A jubilee mass celebrating black Catholic vocations took place on Monday July 25 in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Archbishop Shelton Fabre of Louisville served as celebrant, with Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend offering a welcome. Prof. Carl Gales, SVD, of Chicago served as homilist, and the Holy Angels/St. Rita Parish Gospel Choirs of Indianapolis provided the music for the liturgy.

A panel of young clergy, religious and graduate students discussed “Our Voices Matter: Being Young, Gifted, Black and Catholic in 2022” on Tuesday evening (July 26), followed by a jazz performance by internationally renowned saxophonist and recording artist Grégory Tardy.

Participants in the joint sessions – including Catholic nuns and lay associates, religious brothers, deacons and their wives, novices, seminarians and priests – engaged with the South African principles of “ubuntu“, which stands for humanity, and “sawubona,” which means “we see you,” as they discussed how to move forward in prayer, informed by the faith and experiences of black people in the United States

The University has hosted similar events in the past, including the Black Catholic Theological Symposium in the fall of 2021, a Black Catholic Vocations Symposium in 2010, and the Institute for Black Catholic Studies Summer Session at Xavier University. from New Orleans in 2006, which was moved. due to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In 1971, when Fr. Hesburgh was President, the University hosted one of the first meetings of the National Conference of Black Sisters. The sisters provided a space for seminarians to meet at this conference, and as a result, the National Association of Black Catholic Seminarians was formed in 1971 at Notre Dame.

University sponsors included the McGrath Institute for Church Lifethe Marten Program in Homiletics and Liturgy in the Department of Theology, Department of African Studiesthe Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicismthe Race and Resilience Initiative and the Campus Ministry Office.


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Steven L. Nielsen