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Black Catholics from across the state gather for annual Day of Reflection

by Brooksi Hudson

CHARLESTON — The annual Black Catholic Day of Reflection brought church leaders throughout the diocese to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Jan. 29. The event covered topics of racism, leadership, ethnic diversity, and music.

The keynote speaker for the Day of Reflection was Beverly Carroll, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for African American Catholics. Carroll is a nationally known speaker on the Church’s responsibility in affirming diversity. In 1999 she received an Honorary Doctorate of Human Letters from Siena College.

Kevin Johnson, music director for Spelman College in Atlanta, conducted a music workshop the evening before the Day of Reflection for choir directors throughout the diocese. Johnson has a doctorate in music and choral conducting from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, Conservatory of Music.

Bishop Robert J. Baker of the Diocese of Charleston spoke to those attending the Day of Reflection about his special effort to keep the black schools and parishes in the diocese alive. He also spoke out against racism.

“Racism is an evil that denies human dignity,” he said. “Martin Luther King’s dream has yet to be fully realized.”

He spoke of the need to “discover the great Master Teacher, Jesus, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist that crosses all ethnic barriers.”

Carroll’s talk echoed Bishop Baker’s sentiments regarding racism and outlined ways that parishes can put an end to the evil.

“I often hear from people that to discuss racism is to beat a dead horse, but with so few black priests ordained in the U.S. the horse isn’t dead yet,” she said. “You won’t erase it unless you face it. We must eliminate racial slurs and stereotypes even amongst ourselves.”

“Racism is not merely one evil against many but one that does radical harm to the human family,” she said. “We must learn to respect the rights of all humankind.”

Carroll spoke to participants about racism from the perspective of the U.S. Bishops’ “Pastoral Letter on Racism: Brothers and Sisters To Us.”

She took the levels of diversity that the pastoral deals with to include awareness, values, areas of injustice, and corrective action and offered insight in dealing with issues that are being faced.

“My goal was to help the participants to analyze racism and to encourage them to dismantle (it) within their own structures, programs, and communities,” said Carroll. “The reality is that most of our parishes will be multicultural in the near future. It will be difficult to be a leader and not know how to minister to multicultural groups.”

Carroll encouraged parents and church leaders to show “our children anything that encourages or demonstrates diversity.”

“We have fewer clergy, fewer schools, and fewer people in our schools,” she said. “We must begin to share our oral history with our young people and give our issues voice.”

“The day would be a success if each person would have at least one discussion on racism or matters dealing with race and how we can overcome it,” said Carroll. “We must rely on the Holy Spirit to see us through.”

“We are truly blessed to have Dr. Carroll with us today,” said Franciscan Father Paul Williams, vicar for African-American Catholics and pastor of St. Martin de Porres in Columbia. “When bishops meet, Dr. Carroll is there. She has great influence in our black Catholic affairs. Our Office of Black Catholics was established here thanks to the efforts of retired Bishop (David) Thompson and Dr. Carroll.”

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