ATLANTA — Participants at the National Association of Black Catholic Administrators dealt with several tough issues facing churches and discussed how to overcome them at the annual meeting Sept. 24-26.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory welcomed the attendees to the Archdiocese of Atlanta and encouraged them to work together and be creative as they seek solutions.
A main topic of discussion centered on shrinking diocesan budgets and ways for churches to be resourceful in their fundraising.
Other presentations included Cultural Diversity and New Demands for Evangelization Programming, and Liturgical Norms and Implications for Black Catholics.
“We must all learn how to minister to the needs of the growing, culturally diverse community that is becoming a particular challenge in so many of our dioceses,” Archbishop Gregory said.
William G. Enright, Ph.D., and Richard Klopp led a discussion on the Landscape of Religious Giving.
Enright told the group that African-Americans are the most generous group of people when it comes to religious giving, but presented survey data that revealed a noticeable decrease in tithing. Between 1987 and 2004, collections fell between 25 and 50 percent, with most faith groups experiencing a 30 percent decline.
He said the future of black parishes will depend on other sources of revenue as tithing alone will not sustain them.
Kathleen Merritt, president of NABCA and director of the Diocese of Charleston’s Office of Ethnic Ministries, said the decrease is forcing churches to find new sources of revenue just to keep the doors open.
“Current trends in generous giving indicate that decisions to give is more based on the personal interest of the giver as opposed to, in the past being more of a commitment to a place of spiritual worship,” Merritt said. “Therefore, generous giving to the church and or parish depends on how clear its mission is and how well it matches the personal interest of the giver.”
Merritt, who attends St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, said her church witnessed a significant increase in giving when they presented a clearly defined mission of providing homes, food and financial assistance to those in need.
“Today, donors are no longer donating to visions and dreams as they’ve done in the past,” she said. “Instead, generous giving is being directed toward projects that are a reality and provide immediate visual results to the donor.”
Enright also provided data on church attendance and giving, noting that those who attended more gave more.
Merritt said this is a serious issue for parishes where the number of young adults, children and teens is low. She said administrators must develop strategies that address the future of youth in the church.
Representatives from over 25 dioceses, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church, Xavier Institute for Black Catholic Studies, and other diocesan leaders and personnel gathered for the meeting. Charles Prejean, director of the Office for Black Catholic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, served as host.
The opening Mass and luncheon were held at the Bishop James P. Lyke House-Catholic Center at Atlanta University Center. Father Edward Branch, chaplain, shared the history of the house and its campus ministry program. Merritt presented him with a donation for the program.