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Originally published at the USCCB website: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/cultural-diversity/african-american/ 


by Donna Toliver Grimes,
Assistant Director, African American Affairs

For many who serve in ministry for and with Black Catholics, the first quarter of the year is beyond busy.  Soon after Advent, Christmas and Kwanzaa, come birthday celebrations for Rev. (Dr.) Martin Luther King, Jr. and Black History Month events.  The good news is that Catholic dioceses and the African American community still expect to reserve dates to mark these occasions in 2014, and beyond.  The challenge, however, is keeping these programs fresh, vital, stimulating, affordable and acceptable to the Black Catholic community, ecclesial leaders and decision-makers – perhaps a tall order, but certainly a worthy goal.

Reflecting on past cultural and historical programs, what are your favorite memories?  Which events were most meaningful, which resulted in the best response from the community, which inspired a personal commitment to do more, to be better, to pass on the legacy?  Which local initiatives in your diocese moved the People of God toward racial justice?

Can we reach higher, dig deeper and widen our loving embrace during this significant time?  As we approach the semi-centennials of modern Civil Rights era events and legislation, and mark the golden jubilees of critical Church documents, now is a divine time to discern and affirm who we are and what we are about.  Perhaps God is asking us to adjust certain approaches, to reconsider desired results or to revise work teams.  Or maybe God is telling us to remain encouraged and just hold firm in our particular circumstances.

Here are some things to consider:  Are young adults included in the plans, from design to implementation?  Is there room for persons with disabilities to contribute innovative ideas and fully participate?  Do the elders have appropriate roles?  Are events reasonably priced or free, so as to welcome all who may want to come?  What’s the communication plan to get the word out quickly and effectively?  How is the rest of the Catholic community engaged?

If commemorative Masses, gospel concerts and prayer services are no longer drawing the interest and participation they did once, what else can be done?  #MoreThanADream is an invitation to imagine anew how the words and deeds of Rev. (Dr.) Martin Luther King, Jr. and other activists, inventors, leaders, teachers, ministers, artists and others can speak to us today.  Furthermore, as Catholics, how can our faith strengthen the lessons of history and culture and vice versa?

Three Ideas for January/February

  1. Read an autobiography or biography about the life of a person of African descent.
  2. Share stories about the old days with young people in your family, parish, community and organizations.
  3. Honor local or regional (s)heroes, visit landmarks or museums, and highlight local events that helped our people survive and progress in difficult times.

Donna Toliver Grimes ~ January 2014