Chairman, Committee on African American Catholics
At their annual fall meeting in Washington DC, November 14 (2004), the bishops of the United States took pause to remember the 25tth anniversary of their celebrated document, "Brothers and Sisters To Us": a pastoral statement on the sin of racism. There are ninety-one bishops still alive who deliberated and voted on that document at that time. This pastoral letter continues to bear a message of great insight and vision that continues to speak to the circumstances of our time. The letter proves to be the most direct statement of the nation's bishops attacking racist practices in our nation and ecclesial community.
A copy of Brothers and Sisters to Us can be obtained from the Secretariat for African American Catholics of the USCCB -United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops' committee organized a festive punctuation of this anniversary at the bishops' meeting under the leadership of Bishop Gordon Bennett, SJ former auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and now Bishop of the Diocese of Mandeville, Island of Jamaica, and Beverly Carroll the administrator of the Secretariat.
Sunday, November 14 we had a breakfast forum (photos of forum) featuring program chairman Bishop George Murry, SJ of the Diocese of St. Thomas, Bishop J. Terry Steib, SVD who presented to the bishops some remarkable things with the revitalization of inner city Catholic elementary schools in his Diocese of Memphis.
Dr. James presented the findings of a study commissioned six years ago by the Secretariat to measure the implementation of the pastoral letter across the dioceses of the United States. A copy of the executive summary of this study can be obtained from Beverly Carroll's USCCB office in Washington DC. The report shows that where there has been great progress with the implementation of ridding our pastoral programs and structures of racist practices much work remains, as is the situation across the civic landscape. Whereas the Church should lead always with social progress, in fact, the face of society in aspects is mirrored in the Church.
Also, Ms. Margretha Stokes-Tucker from the Diocese of Pittsburgh presented several current models with office structures used by bishops to aid in ministry to black Catholics. This document is valuable for its creativity in wake of economic downturns affecting dioceses across the country. Beverly Carroll can send you a copy of her talk upon request.
Monday, November 15, the two hundred some bishops celebrated their customary opening Mass of the Conference at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception located on the campus of Catholic University in Washington DC. That mass featured a wonderful adult choir from one of the African American parishes in Washington and the homily was delivered by Bishop Wilton Gregory, of the Diocese of Belleville who completed his three year term as president of the bishops' conference and most recently was appointed Archbishop of Atlanta.
Officers from the Black Catholic Sisters Conference, the Black Catholic Clergy Caucus and Black seminarians, Knights of St. Peter Claver, Black priests from around the country were in attendance. Black students from Catholic high schools in the city served as acolytes for the Mass joined in by a crowd of Washington area students, professors, religious and ordinary folks.
I was pleased to be asked by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, to read to the assembly a letter of congratulation from Cardinal Renato Martino of the Vatican Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. We rely on the grace of God as we lead with a renewal of minds and hearts of our faithful and all people of good will. Bishop Joseph N. Perry Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago Chairman, Committee on African American Catholics