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Black church people celebrate solidarity.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - About 250 African-American church people gathered in Louisville July 25-31 to celebrate their ethnicity, Catholicity and contributions to the church on the 25th anniversary of the founding of two black Catholic organizations.

Several bishops, priests, nuns, seminarians, permanent deacons and deacons' wives attended the joint conference of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, the National Black Sisters Conference and the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association. The clergy caucus and sisters conference both were founded 25 years ago.

Conference delegates represented education, parish work, youth ministry, inner-city outreach and various other church ministries.

"This is almost for us like a homecoming," said Fr. Don Sterling, clergy caucus president, who is from the Baltimore archdiocese. "This is the one opportunity when nationally we come together on an annual basis, which makes it less work and more of a celebration for us."

"It's a time of growth and trying to renew our faith and togetherness that we teach," said Sr. Amadee Maxwell, a Louisville native who has been at Xavier University in New Orleans and is leaving to work with Haitian refugees in Florida. "It's a time to share the gifts that we have and also to hear the needs of the people, make sure we are tuned to the needs of the people in various ministries."

Many of the black priests, nuns, seminarians and deacon couples in the United States feel they are alone in their respective dioceses, said Msgr. Wallace Harris, pastor of a parish in central Harlem in the New York archdiocese. The conference gives them an opportunity to share stories, swap resources and pray together, he said.

More important, it gives them a bigger picture of the extent of African-American vocations in the church. "It gives us that support on a national level," he said. "You get that feeling that you're not alone."

Each organization was to handle initial business items and issues separately; a joint agenda and possible joint resolutions were expected later in the meeting. For instance, issues for the sisters conference included formation, the black family, education of the black child and financial needs of Catholic schools.

One business item completed early in the conference was creation of a new National Association of African-American Catholic Deacons. Previously, the approximately 400 African-American deacons were included in the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.

Frederick Mason of the Chicago archdiocese was elected president of the association. Mason, who was already serving as the diaconate representative on the caucus board, said the association's goals were to "collaborate with the leadership" of the church and the African-American Catholic community.

He added: "Our particular charism is to promote the African-American family and Particularly the African-American male" as a role model.
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Author:Horner, Roy J.
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Aug 13, 1993
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