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Young, Black & Catholic

A Ministry on Mission

Erica Nnemka Nwajiaku doesn’t want to just go to Mass. When she attends church on Sunday, she wants to feel “seen” and like she belongs.

Something with which many Black Catholics like Nwajiaku struggle is a sense of belonging. As she puts it, “there just aren’t enough people who look like me.”

And, she would like to change that.

This young, Black Catholic is outspoken in her love of the faith. She has made it her mission to bring more of the Black community into Catholic churches around the state, and specifically, her goal is to spread the word to other young adults.

“We need each other,” she said. “I am looking to target young, Black Catholics between the ages of 18 to 39. I feel like we are all spread out in different churches around the state, and many of us do not even attend a church on a regular basis.”

She has also noticed that many Black Catholics have left their parishes to seek out congregations in different denominations with a community base to which they can relate.

“With so many predominantly white Catholic churches in the state, I think many of my fellow Black Catholics just don’t feel a sense of belonging,” she said.

For all these reasons, Nwajiaku decided to start a ministry called Young, Black & Catholic. Her goal is to gain support of the different parishes in South Carolina to help them welcome more Black parishioners as members.

Her first challenge — finding them.

“I will start with reaching out to St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church in Columbia,” she added, “which currently has a larger population of Black parishioners.”

She will also get in contact with the University of South Carolina.

“I’d like to set up a meet and greet in person so that we can get to know each other. From there we can attend Mass together and hopefully become involved members of the parish. I think having a familiar face, someone that looks like you, will make you want to get more involved and become more active in the Church,” Nwajiaku explained.

She is even hoping that congregations throughout the state might adopt a more “Black experience,” as she described, and include gospel music during Mass a couple of times a month. She said that it will help the Black community feel more welcome, like they can relate. Nwajiaku has been encouraged by the ordination of Bishop Jacques Fabre-Jeune, CS.

“Having him as the bishop will encourage more Black Catholics to seek out their faith,” she said. “I think they will feel more welcome knowing that he is the bishop in South Carolina. They will see themselves in him.”

She expressed that Black Catholics can really make a difference, and that they can bring a unique experience to the Church.

“I see Young, Black & Catholic as a ministry that is fulfilling a need that isn’t being fulfilled. It is up to us to fulfill this need,” she continued. “I hope it makes an impact on someone and brings them back to the Church. I want other Black Catholics to know that the Catholic Church is us. We are what we make it.”

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