Fresh off its 2023 gathering, the National Black Catholic Congress (NBCC) is hosting a webinar on Sunday, August 27, detailing survey data collected for its forthcoming Vision Plan of Action—the document issued after each Congress to guide Black Catholic ministry in dioceses and parishes around the country.
The webinar is the second in a series, following a virtual presentation on July 30, one week after the 2023 Congress brought thousands of Black Catholics and allies to the Washington metro area for several days of fellowship and rejuvenation.
Fr Stephen Thorne, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and a special consultant for the NBCC’s governing body, is the organizer behind both virtual events recapping the most recent Congress and planning for the future.
“I am very inspired by the interest in the vision plan of action,” he told BCM, emphasizing the importance of the document for the continuance of the fervor generated by the NBCC’s flagship gathering.
“As I mentioned in my remarks at Congress, we are about encounter, formation, and action. Now the congress event is over, we must find new ways to evangelize and develop a growth mindset.”
During the webinar in July, Thorne spoke of the 2023 Congress theme, “Write the vision: A prophetic call to thrive,” drawn from the Old Testament’s Book of Habakkuk and encouraging Black Catholics to focus on the future. Attrition rates among African Americans are among the highest of any ethnic group in the Catholic Church, and many of the presenters at the Congress spoke of the need for a unified strategy for sustaining the faith of their storied community.
To that end, the NBCC organizers sent out a survey for the Congress attendees, seeking their input on what should be included in the upcoming Plan of Action, which will be in effect for the next five years. Questions included a list of participants’ top three concerns for Black Catholics, as well as possible solutions.
According to Thorne, several hundred participants had completed the survey within a week of the NBCC gathering, predominantly laity, women, and those aged 56 and older. More than half of respondents reported that the 2023 Congress was their first.
The NBCC was formed in 1987 by various leaders from national Black Catholic organizations, most of which were founded as part of the Black Catholic Movement of the late 20th century. The Congress followed an earlier National Black Catholic Lay Caucus, as well as the former Colored Catholic Congress, founded in 1889 by the pioneering journalist Daniel Rudd.
The Congress has since met every five years and is currently governed by the nation’s Black Catholic prelates (including Bishop-president Roy E. Campbell Jr.), executive director Valerie Washington, and a board made up of representatives from various Black Catholic organizations and demographics.
Sunday’s webinar on the latest NBCC Plan of Action will take place on Zoom at 7pm ET and there is no advance registration required.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.