‘Act justly, love goodness’: Black Catholics in America

Retired Bishop Gordon D. Bennett of Mandeville, Jamaica, poses for a photo with an attendees of the 12th National Black Catholic Congress on July 9 in Orlando. (CNS/courtesy Nancy Jo Davis, National Black Catholic Congress) Retired Bishop Gordon D. Bennett of Mandeville, Jamaica, poses for a photo with an attendees of the 12th National Black Catholic Congress on July 9 in Orlando. (CNS/courtesy Nancy Jo Davis, National Black Catholic Congress)

The Catholic Church in the United States boasts 71 million members, 2.9 million of whom are black. Representatives from that vibrant community met in Orlando in July for the National Black Catholic Congress. The series of talks, workshops and liturgical celebrations examining issues facing black Catholics has been held every five years since 1987. The event concluded with the prophet Micah’s call to “act justly, love goodness and walk humbly with your God.”

Surveys indicate that black Catholics have high degrees of involvement with their parishes.

“We have to work together to get closer to God and to get closer to each other,” says Tonya Dorsey, a speaker at the Congress and the minister of music at St. Martin de Porres in Philadelphia. “Once we treat each other with respect and dignity, people will be drawn to us.”

Advertisement

One “pastoral priority” that emerged from the Congress was to “dismantle racism in all forms.” That appeal followed discussion of the Black Lives Matter campaign, which prompted Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri III of New Orleans to apologize to young black Catholics for abandoning the movement. “Partly, I didn’t understand it, and by the time I did understand it, it was too late,” Bishop Cheri said, responding to a frank dialogue on dissatisfaction with the church’s handling of racial issues.

Part of the solution, suggests Ms. Dorsey, involves listening more to younger voices. “We’ve got to be open to our youth....They really want to be a part of the whole life of the church.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The appointments are part of an ongoing effort to give a greater role to women in the work of the Roman Curia offices, the central administration of the Catholic church.
Gerard O’ConnellApril 21, 2018
Ivette Escobar, a student at Central American University in San Salvador, helps finish a rug in honor of the victims in the 1989 murder of six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter on the UCA campus, part of the 25th anniversary commemoration of the Jesuit martyrs in 2014. (CNS photo/Edgardo Ayala) 
A human rights attorney in the United States believes that the upcoming canonization of Blessed Oscar Romero in October has been a factor in a decision to revisit the 1989 Jesuit massacre at the University of Central America.
Kevin ClarkeApril 20, 2018
Journalists photograph the lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in California in 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
In California, Catholic opponents of the death penalty are trying to protect the largest population of inmates awaiting execution in the Western Hemisphere.
Jim McDermottApril 20, 2018
Photo: the Hank Center at Loyola University Chicago
Bishop McElroy said that Catholics must embrace “the virtues of solidarity, compassion, integrity, hope and peace-building.”