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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

080417 congressCHARLOTTE — “It was lit!”

That’s how members of Our Lady of Consolation Church’s Youth In Action group described their experience at the 12th National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando, Fla., July 6-9.

The goal of congress attendees was to learn about issues impacting the African American community and then leave equipped with the tools necessary to serve and better our brothers and sisters. The event’s theme was “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: act justly, love goodness and walk humbly with God.”

The congress provided a particular opportunity for black Catholic teenagers from all over the United States to connect, learn and worship together. This had a huge impact as more than 200 teens gathered together – listening, learning, sharing and interacting with each other.

YIA members said they did not know what to expect before the congress, but they agreed that the experience would probably push them out of their comfort zone. By the end of the congress, they saw it as an eye-opening, extraordinary experience that sparked their faith and inspired them to more closely follow the teachings of Christ.

“I felt like I was a part of something – a big family, the Catholic family,” said YIA’s president, Devine Drummond. “It was a joyous, inspiring and exciting experience that united members of God’s black Catholic family.”

YIA members said the congress enlightened them in their Catholic faith, opening their eyes and minds to the importance of growing spiritually.

“It took us one step further into our journey with God,” said YIA member Christelle Mukoko.

Rosheene Adams, director of the Diocese of Charlotte’s African American Affairs Ministry, noted, “In today’s society, polarized by increases in racial violence and killings of unarmed blacks by police, we were all challenged to be true evangelizers, speak out against the social injustices of today and focus on people who are in need.

080417 NBCC local comments“We were encouraged to engage our youth, create leadership positions for them and foster ‘true’ collaboration between current and future leadership within our parishes.”

Adams said of all the speakers at the congress, one message particularly hit home: “Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Ill., urged everyone to ‘do something to know their history and to engage in their community.’ They must exercise their right to vote, participate in public life, run for public life and inspire young people to get involved. He left everyone with the requirement to ‘listen, learn, think, act and pray.’

“We (African American Catholics) need to get into real conversations with others in the community about our history so we can all grow in knowledge.”

Overall, their congress experience was a gateway to new knowledge, YIA members said.

They learned more about the exemplary life of Father Augustus Tolton, the first black priest in the United States; they learned about the liturgy of the Mass; and they attended discussion sessions designed specifically for the issues that young people face today.

Even though they shared many different views in some of the discussion sessions, they agreed that Jesus is always there to help them through their everyday challenges and struggles.

YIA members also expressed gratitude to those who made their trip to the National Black Catholic Congress possible, including the Diocese of Charlotte, pastor Father Carl Del Giudice and the members of Our Lady of Consolation Church.

— Amily James, Florence Okoro and Jackie Diouf, Special to the Catholic News Herald. Amily James, Florence Okoro and Jackie Diouf are members of Our Lady of Consolation Church’s Youth In Action group.