By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published July 9, 2020
ATLANTA—Leaning on faith, an online meeting of young adult Black Catholics started a summer series of prayer, support and listening.
On Friday, June 27, believers from across the country gathered to voice their feelings about the month-long nationwide protests and anger sparked by police and racial violence against African Americans.
“We, as young Black Catholics, must continue to strive to be the warm light in a world grown cold and dark,” said Ugo Anikpe, 26, who worships at St. Paul of the Cross Church, Atlanta.
During the online dialogue, hosted by the Archdiocese of Atlanta Office of Intercultural Ministries, some two dozen believers attended the hour-long meeting as they prayed with Scripture, reflected and shared.
“We’re still called to turn to God, to be able to find the tools and the resources and the strength and the love we need to fight this sin,” said Ashley Morris, the assistant director of the archdiocesan office.
Dr. Ansel Augustine, the executive director of Cultural Diversity and Outreach for the Archdiocese of Washington, said the task for young adult Black Catholics is to remember “who we are and whose we are as children of God and to remember this is our church too.”
One of the event’s presenters, Augustine joined the Archdiocese of Washington this spring, after serving as the director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Young adults of all cultural backgrounds want bishops and leaders to “put stronger actions behind our beautiful documents,” said the 42-year-old. Young adults have passions to take on hard issues and be heard in “their rawness and truthfulness,” he said.
Augustine said he’s inspired by “the ancestors that sacrificed before me and the youth coming after me.” He said he prays Black Catholics draw in their peers “to create a space in the church where they feel safe and accepted as their authentic selves.”
Catholic leaders have issued statements opposing racism since a white police officer in Minneapolis in May knelt on the neck of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed. It came after the killings of Ahmaud Arbery by white men and Breonna Taylor by police. Some bishops have taken a knee in a show of support for Black lives. Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., joined hundreds of other Catholics in downtown Atlanta in a march for justice June 11.
Morris said he is inspired to work for change during this unrest because of his young daughter.
“You have to have the faith, just a minuscule amount, to know in the end the right thing will triumph and it must not be the end if evil continues to prevail,” he said.
Avery Daniel, an Atlanta seminarian, told the group how African Americans “have a particular connection to the Passion of Christ” as a marginalized group. He was one of the event’s speakers.
Daniel said he is inspired by the life of Father Augustus Tolton, who is recognized as the first African American priest in the United States and whose life is being studied for canonization. Daniel said the 19th-century priest, born into slavery, was dedicated to the faith and his ministry facing daily racism.
Shaniqua X. Wilson works with the Bowman-Francis Ministry Team to strengthen the relationship between African American Catholics and Christ. She works in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Wilson said her faith at this time leans on the Eucharist.
“It is the most powerful and important part of our faith. It is the thing that separates us from all of the other Christian denominations and it is what gives me strength from day to day,” she said. “It is the one thing that allows us to be ‘authentically Black and truly Catholic!’”