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Institute for Black Catholic Studies, Bowman-Francis Ministry hosting virtual initiatives for Lent

Two national ministries seek to inspire an inculturated Lenten experience this year for African-American Catholics with virtual video initiatives.

The Institute for Black Catholic Studies (IBCS) at Xavier University of Louisiana has begun its annual video series for Lent, kicking off the solemn season with a video from its associate director for community life, Fr Roy Lee.

The initiative will feature short reflections and art from the IBCS community and African American Catholics around the country, under the theme “When You See Me, You See Lent”.

“The Institute for Black Catholic Studies offers this online 40-day retreat in the form of daily Black Catholic reflection,” read an email calling for submissions last month.

“A mixture of word, song, poetry, and dance—a buffet of Black Catholic expression to acknowledge the Lenten season from an authentically Black and truly Catholic perspective.”

Lee’s reflection, released Tuesday on the official IBCS YouTube channel, reflects on the cruciform suffering of enslaved Africans and their descendants in the Western world, from the Middle Passage to institutional racism to White terrorism.

“They ask me, ‘What are you giving up for Lent?’” he says in the brief 3-minute offering, replete with African drumming and vestments.

“When you see me, you see Lent—a little Black boy walking along the shores of Lake Michigan… and all of a sudden, a cop came by and yelled out ‘Get back on your side of the town.’”

The poignant new series comes as part of the IBCS’ increased digital presence, having hosted a similar series for Lent last year and for Kwanzaa during the holiday season.

The initiative also anticipates the upcoming 43rd annual session of the IBCS, which comprises a Masters of Theology program and certificate program conducted over three weeks each summer in New Orleans. It will return to in-person status this year after two years away.

The session begins on June 27th this year, and applications are open now.

Another national Lenten initiative for Black Catholics, from the Bowman-Francis Ministry, also began today, from BFM director Fr Charles Smith, SVD.

Announced last month, the organization’s six-week virtual Lenten Bible study is set to kick off Thursday, March 3rd, also in the form of YouTube videos supplemented by online fellowships each week throughout the season.

“Join with the Bowman-Francis Ministry Team as we take a community-centered lenten Bible journey through God’s Word,” read an invitation email sent out by BFM last month.

“As a bonus for this series, Fr. Charles will answer questions weekly on Thursdays during live Zoom sessions where participants will pray, share encouraging discussions and highlight our Black Catholicism.”

The theme for the series is “The Lion and the Lamb”, and videos will release each Sunday for the next 5 weeks. It is the latest of several similar series hosted by BFM during the pandemic, which began—like IBCS’—in Lent 2021.

The organization, founded in 1993 by a number of African-American priests in the Society of the Divine Word, is known for its robust multigenerational outreach ministries across the nation, which have been augmented since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Integral to their digital pivot have been a series of messages posted at the head of major liturgical season, including an official Ash Wednesday message which premiered this morning.

As with their previous offerings, the ministry’s Lenten series is free for all participants and registration is available on their website. Donations are also being accepted for the continuation of their ministry.

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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