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CTU hosting webinar Thursday on 'Black Catholic exodus'

African-American Catholics are leaving the Church like clockwork, and a virtual event this week out of Chicago will aim to address the phenomenon head-on.

The Catholic Theological Union in Chicago will host a webinar on Thursday, February 17th concerning new statistics which show a growing number of African-American Catholics are leaving the Church.

Entitled “Where Have All the Black Catholics Gone?”, the event is being sponsored by the school’s Augustus Tolton Pastoral Ministry Program, which trains Black Catholics for ministry in the local archdiocese.

It will feature a slate of panelists from around the country with experience across a range of sectors within Black Catholic ministry.

These include Dr. Ansel Augustine, an Emmy Award-nominated film producer and youth ministry expert who currently heads the Office of Black Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of New Orleans—one of the Blackest sees in the United States. He is also the area director for Vagabond Missions, an outreach program for troubled youth.

He will be joined by Dr. Valerie Lewis-Mosley, a master catechist, evangelist, and graduate of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana. She is also the director of religious education at Christ the King Catholic Church in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Also speaking will be Fr Michael Trail, who serves in Chicago less than a mile from CTU. He is one of the youngest African-American Catholic pastors in the country, having taken up the helm at St Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church last year at the age of 31.

The moderator for the discussion will be Dr. Kimberly Lymore, director of the Tolton Program and the newly elected convener of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium, an academic association founded in 1978. She is also the associate minister at St Sabina Catholic Church.

A recent Pew study published in 2021 found that just 54% of Black adults raised as Catholics continue to identify as such, sparking an outcry from African-Americans and others lamenting the state of the Church.

Prominent media pieces in the aftermath have included Fr Bryan Massingale in US Catholic last June, and Dr. Anthea Butler for MSNBC in November.

A recently concluded webinar series from the National Black Catholic Congress has sought to uplift young Black voices during the same period, and some media outlets have framed it as a response to the now-coined “Black Catholic exodus”.

The population of Black Catholics in the United States is popularly counted at 3 million, but that number includes all Catholics of African descent in the US. The number of Black Catholics descended from US slavery—the demographic most commonly referenced by the term—is closer to 1.76 million.

Thursday’s event from CTU will begin at 6:30pm CT and interested parties can register here.

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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