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Institute for Black Catholic Studies, Knights of Peter Claver set to convene in New Orleans this summer

Two of the nation's premiere Black Catholic gatherings will take place this year in the Crescent City, part of a blockbuster summer of events for the national community.

In the coming weeks, hundreds of Black Catholics will descend upon New Orleans for two of the year’s most prominent events in the community, scheduled back-to-back in one of the nation’s most historic—and Blackest—Catholic cities.

The Institute for Black Catholic Studies (IBCS), now in its 44th year, will run from June 25 through July 14 at Xavier University of Louisiana, while the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary national conventions will be held downtown at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel from July 13-19.

IBCS activities will include its flagship graduate studies programs, with classes being offered for a Master of Theology (ThM) in Black Catholic studies, as well as enrichment and certificate courses. The former constitutes “the only graduate theology curriculum in the nation dedicated to Black Catholic perspectives,” according to XULA.

“Its courses focus on Black approaches, critiques, and contributions to systematic and pastoral theologies.”

This year’s offerings include courses on Black theology, Black psychology, and the history of Black Catholicism, as well as on Black perspectives of Christology. The two elective classes will be “Spirituality of Black Literature” and “Issues in the Black Family.”

The 2023 faculty includes Drs. Simon Aihiokhai of the University of Portland, Brian L. Turner of XULA; Ernest L. Gibson III of Auburn University, Cecilia Moore of Dayton University, and Junior Hopwood of Grambling University.

Aihiokhai will give the annual IBCS public lecture on Sunday, July 9, at 3pm CT in University Center 205, according to a recent announcement from the Office of Black Catholics for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

The IBCS will also hold public liturgies Monday through Friday during its three-week run, including an opening Mass on Sunday, June 25, at 6:30pm in St. Katharine Drexel Chapel on campus. Morning Praise will also occur there each morning at 8am, and the annual IBCS Ancestor Commemoration will take place on Friday, June 30 at 6pm in the University Center. The Baccalaureate Mass and commencement ceremony will be held in the chapel on Friday, July 14, at 6pm.

The Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary, which are headquartered in New Orleans, will begin gathering in the city on July 14 for the fourth-degree National Conclave, one day after the Junior National Convention kicks off with the youth members of the historic Black Catholic fraternal order. The Senior National Convention will run from July 16-19, including a full slate of events with prominent Catholic figures from around the country.

2023 will mark the first time in the 114-year history of KPC that all six divisions of the order (males and females at the junior, third-degree, and fourth-degree levels) will gather in the same place for their national meetings.

“The planning committee has worked extensively to provide a full, entertaining, joyous, and Spirit-filled convention experience for all attendees,” said Supreme Knight Dr. Christopher Pichon in a joint video statement released this month with Supreme Lady Micaela LeBlanc.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, himself a longtime Claver member, will celebrate the annual Convention Mass on Sunday, July 16, at 10am in the Sheraton. The order has also noted that Archbishop Greg Aymond of New Orleans; Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry of Chicago; Bishop William Wack, CSC, of Pensacola-Tallahassee; and Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento will also make appearances during the convention.

“[Sunday] is our historic moment, because all divisions—Knights, Ladies, Junior Knights, Junior Daughters, Sir Knights, and Ladies of Grace will celebrate Mass as an entire Claver family on the national level,” said LeBlanc, who also noted that 2023 is an important voting year for the order.

“Resolutions being proposed that may change our constitution and bylaws will be published in the next issue of the Claverite and then voted on by the convention body in New Orleans.”

Several of the nation’s young Black Catholic priests are expected to give presentations at the conventions, including podcaster and author Fr Josh Johnson of Baton Rouge, Frs Ajani Gibson and Daniel Green of New Orleans, and Fr Avery Daniel of Atlanta. 

Nationally known medical analyst Dr. Corey Hébert will be present to give a talk and Q&A on sickle cell disease, and Claver member Dr. David Robinson-Morris will present the “Black Catholics - Listening and Dreaming Session” during a member’s luncheon on Monday, July 17.

Other special events will include the Ladies of Grace bingo fundraiser on Friday, July 14, at 1:30pm; the Irene T. Green Performing Arts Extravaganza on Friday at 7pm; the St. Peter Claver Foundation Gala for Education on Sunday, July 16 at 7pm; the fourth-degree and junior division awards banquet on Saturday, July 15; and the third-degree awards banquet on Monday, July 17. Tickets for each event can be purchased on the KPC website.

The order’s annual scholarship raffle is also open online through July 17, with prizes up to $3,000; winners will be announced during the convention. An in-person donation booth and silent auction will also be available at the hotel to benefit mothers and young children via the New Orleans Family Justice Center. Donations can also be made online.

Both the IBCS and the KPC national conventions are expected to draw a significant number of Black Catholics to the Crescent City, though many will be traveling again soon after to the nation’s capital. There, just one day after the conclusion of the KPC festivities, the 2023 National Black Catholic Congress will convene at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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