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Registration open for 2023 National Black Catholic Congress

The nation's largest Black Catholic event, meeting every five years, is open for registration for its 2023 gathering in the DC metro area.

A Mass at the 2017 National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando, Florida. (Catholic News Service/Nancy Jo Davis/National Black Catholic Congress)

WASHINGTON — Registration has officially opened for next year’s gathering of the National Black Catholic Congress, the organization’s first in-person event in six years.

Congress XIII is scheduled for July 20-23, 2023 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, and early-bird registration is available online through February 2023 at $395 per adult (not including lodging). Youth registration is $350.

Valerie Washington, the NBCC’s executive director, released a letter of welcome this week on a new webpage dedicated to the event, which was delayed from 2022 due to health concerns.

“In addition to inflicting many losses, the upheaval of the COVID pandemic made planning for this event incredibly difficult as government policies lifted,” she wrote.

“Things we saw as obstacles became opportunities, and prayer has produced progress in ways that we could never have foreseen, the fruits of which will be, we believe, the best Congress gathering yet.”

Earlier this year, the NBCC executive board announced the theme of the event, settling on  “Write the Vision: A Prophetic Call to Thrive,” drawn from a verse in the book of the prophet Habakkuk.

Congress XIII comes at a time of crossroads in the Black Catholic community, amid the nation’s ongoing racial reckoning, which reached a fever pitch in summer 2020. Research released in the past year-plus has also revealed a number of challenging statistics, including the fact that Black Americans are the least likely ethnic group in the US to remain Catholic even if raised as such.

These and other considerations were included in a substantial preparatory document released in September, including reflections on the theme from Fr Raymond Harris of Holy Family Catholic Church in Randallstown, Maryland. The booklet is intended to guide local Days of Reflection, which are being held over the next several months by committees in each diocese planning to send delegates to Congress XIII.

Adult and youth tracks will be available for next year’s event, and can be expected to feature the aforementioned themes and possible responses, in addition to the Pastoral Plan of Action that emerges from each Congress to help guide Black Catholic ministry nationally.

The full agenda for the event has not been released, but an opening reception will take place on the evening of Thursday, July 20. The nation’s first Black cardinal, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, will serve as celebrant of the opening Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Friday evening, and as the keynote speaker on the same day.

For a small fee paid during registration, attendees can also sign up for a private after-hours reception at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture on Friday night. Saturday evening will feature a Unity Mass at the basilica with the African National Eucharistic Congress, which Gregory will also celebrate.

The Congress XIII liturgy team was announced earlier this year, including music director Lynne’ Gray of St. Anthony of Padua Church in DC, and liturgy director Rawn Harbor of Washington’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church.

Congress XIII is expected to draw upwards of 1,700 attendees to the DC metro area, and a call for proposals has been listed on the website, from which will come the keynotes, workshops, and panels to be featured at the event. Entertainment proposals are also being accepted, and all submissions must be received by January 13.

A prospectus for exhibitors and sponsors has also been released, with options ranging from $750-$25,000 for the latter. Exhibition tables range in cost from $1,000 to 10,000.

Founded in 1987, the National Black Catholic Congress organizes a national gathering every five years and operates in the spirit of the Colored Catholic Congress, founded by the journalist Daniel Rudd and running annually from 1889 to 1894.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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