A plan for black Catholics unfolds

Father Art Cavitt hopes that a new five-year pastoral plan for black Catholics in the United States will serve as a source of awareness, inspiration and motivation.

The pastoral plan was developed during the National Black Catholic Congress XI, held July 19-21 in Indianapolis. About 40 Catholics from the Archdiocese of St. Louis attended the event.

Father Cavitt, executive director of the St. Charles Lwanga Center, recently spoke about the plans to implement the new pastoral plan here. The Lwanga Center promotes Catholic spiritual and leadership development within the African-American community and beyond in the archdiocese.

"We hope this new plan will bring an awareness of the issues" important to black Catholics, said Father Cavitt, and to be "an inspiration and motivation for us to be proactive."

Founded by Catholic activist and newspaper editor Daniel Rudd, the National Black Catholic Congress is one of the oldest Catholic lay organizations in the United States. Its purpose is to inspire Catholic leaders to share the Gospel with members of the black community and to develop and implement methods of evangelization within the context of social and economic conditions. The national congress, which is held every five years, first took place in Washington, D.C., in 1889 to help evangelize and care for black Catholics following the Reconstruction Era.

In 2008, the local implementation team for the National Black Catholic Congress was placed under the auspices of the Lwanga Center, during the tenure of then-Archbishop Raymond L. Burke. The team includes Father Cavitt, Lynn Squires of St. Augustine Parish in north St. Louis, and Carolyn Yandell of St. Alphonsus Liguori "Rock" Parish in north St. Louis.

The pastoral plan includes 10 major points, which were developed during a process that included a national survey of black Catholics, diocesan Days of Reflection and input from black Catholic leaders around the country. The points include everything from supporting the Sacrament of Marriage to life issues, promoting religious vocations, education, social issues and evangelization. The details of the plan were worked out during the July congress, and a final version was presented last month.

Lynn Squires said the congress allows St. Louis black Catholics to connect with others across the United States in order to gain a national perspective. "We see how do we fit in on a national level," said Squires. "As we develop programs here, this will give us some guidelines on how we should plan."

The pastoral plan also has served as an affirmation of the things already being done in the archdiocese. For example, one of the points in the plan highlights the importance of marriage, and a suggestion was made to encourage black parishes to offer marriage preparation programs. The Lwanga Center, which includes 11 sponsoring parishes, currently offers three marriage prep weekends, with the goal of implementing a fourth.

The pastoral plan's point on social ministries includes offering better access to health care. The Lwanga Center is currently in the process of forming a collaboration with a local organization called Faith Communities United to provide AIDS awareness to the black Catholic community. Father Cavitt stressed that any efforts will fall within the context of Catholic teaching on sexuality and contraceptive use.

Squires said her hope is that the implementation team will be able to connect with parishes to see what programs and resources they're offering and to find opportunities where parishes can collaborate with one another.

"We hope that this will be an inspiration for people," Squires said of the plan. "We're hoping that people say, after they've had a sense of what's going on, then they'll want to get involved."

Pastoral plan gathering

In observation of Black Catholic History Month, the St. Charles Lwanga Center was to host a discussion on how the pastoral plan will be implemented in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The event was to take place at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish, 1050 Smith Road in Ferguson.

The plan's 10 key issues include holiness of life, life and dignity of the human person, walking with the saints, engaged in parish life and evangelization, faith informed, schools too valuable to sell, reaching out to next generations, vocations -- every Catholic's priority, getting married and staying married, and the social apostolate.

To read the entire pastoral plan, see www.stlouisreview.com/rge.

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