Diocesanwide Black Catholic Revival focuses on faith - Catholic Courier

Diocesanwide Black Catholic Revival focuses on faith

The theme of the Black Catholic Revival grew out of prayerful reflection on the hardships black Catholics have faced, organizers say.

The endurance of faith through civil rights struggles and other hardships will be one focus of the revival, which will take place Nov. 13-15 at Immaculate Conception/St. Bridget’s Church, 445 Frederick Douglass St., Rochester.

The revival will take place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Nov. 13, 6:30 to 9 p.m. Nov. 14 and 9:30 to noon Nov. 15. Each night the revival will begin with a half an hour of gospel music before preaching begins.

The revival will feature guest speaker Josephite Father Anthony Bozeman, a revival leader, presenter and retreat facilitator from the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Through preaching, music and reflections, the revival marks Black Catholic History Month in November and will focus on the theme of "Through it all . . . enduring faith."

The diocesan Black Catholic Leadership Commission felt a diocesanwide revival was needed to re-energize the community and revive the spirit, said David Powe, a parishioner of St. Rita in Webster and a member of the 2-year-old commission, which last year hosted a day of reflection and in the spring hosted a picnic.

"People can expect good music, good preaching and good fellowship," Powe said of the revival, adding that organizers are aiming for it to be dynamic. "Don’t expect to come there and sleep through it."

He noted that the revival will be open to all, not just black Catholics.

"The idea of the theme is that through all of our hardships and all our struggles, what keeps us going is our faith; that’s the thing we have to hold on to," said Elizabeth Johnston, intercultural program specialist for the diocesan Office for Cultural Diversity.

Johnston said there are plans to incorporate reflections from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on black Catholic history, especially focusing on a series of civil rights milestones that took place from 1964 to 1965. Locally, Rochester’s riots took place 50 years ago, exposing simmering racial tensions and leaving an enduring mark on the city’s urban landscape and communities.

The revival also will feature a focus on young black Catholics on Friday, Nov. 14. Organizers wanted to make sure that not only were young people included in the revival, but that they were a key part of the event, Powe said.

"We really have to invest in our youth if our faith is going to continue," he said.

During the Friday session, Holy Apostles Parish’s children’s gospel choir will perform, and 14-year-old Aquinas student Vanessa Fulmore will speak, Johnston said.

Vanessa penned an essay that was featured this summer in the national Catholic magazine America. A parishioner of St. Monica in Rochester, Vanessa originally wrote her essay to read at the parish to mark Black Catholic History Month during last November. Her speech was videotaped and placed on YouTube, where it was shared by the National Black Catholic Congress and seen by America’s staff.

Vanessa said she has encountered skepticism or surprise from people when she tells them that she is Catholic. She said people don’t often think of blacks as being Catholic.

"I feel like I have to speak up for black Catholics to say yes, we are Catholics too," Vanessa said.

Now Vanessa is in the children’s choir, the gospel choir, helps with the children’s liturgy and at vacation Bible school. It was out of her activity with the parish that she was approached to speak about being black and Catholic, her mother, Lynn Fulmore, said.

"This has made it OK for her to be who she is and an opportunity for her to speak to other kids about her joy so that others may catch the fire," Lynn Fulmore said.

Tags: Black Catholics
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