Question and Answer

Question and Answer September 20, 2014

A reader asks:

Why hasn’t there been a more concerted effort of outreach to bring in more black people into the Church ?

We’re Catholics. There hasn’t been a concerted effort of outreach to bring anybody into the Church. When people ask if I believe in organized religion, I say, “No. I’m a Catholic.”

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  • Fr. David Hudgins

    Umm…there’s these guys…it’s pretty much their full-time gig.

    Lots of cool stuff happening in the Archdiocese of Detroit through Sacred Heart Major Seminary’s New Evangelization program. There’s a strong tie-in with these guys in Detroit too.

    Obviously there’s no end to what should be done. But it’s not quite fair to say nothing has been done.

    • W. Randolph Steele

      My wife is African-American. She and her family converted in the mid 60’s around the time of VaticanII. They joined a parish that adjoined mine(although we did not meet until 30+ years later).when she was a little girl and grew up going Catholic grade school, high school (an exclusive private Catholic girls school-one of her classmates is the first Africa-american Federal judge in our state), Catholic College AND graduate school-she has a Master degree in Pastoral Theology from Xavier University in New Orleans.
      She was the FIRST African-american DRE in our Archdiocese and NOW the first African-American Pastoral Associate in the Archdiocese. She serves the wealthiest and very conservative parish in the Archdiocese and has since 2004. I asked her this question and her answers were: racism and the failure on the part of the Church to understand African-American culture. Her original parish while rather small now, was and is multicultural and has a Gospel Choir and as does the parish we attend.
      You must remember that Catholicism in the United States was and is still pretty white European AND during MOST its history (until the 1960″s)was segregated even to the point of refusing membership to African American Catholics in the parishes whose boundaries they lived in ans shunting them to “colored parishes” no matter how far away they were from their homes. This was the case in our Archdiocese until a couple had the clout to protest the Papal Nuncio In Washington D. C. who informed the then bishop that he was to register them on the parish where they lived.
      We had a negative experience at Mass when we kissed at the Kiss of Peace at the small rural church in the southern part of our state that my father family helped to found the in 1840’s. We were their to celebrate our engagement in 2001. We were shocked by the stares we got AND by the guy who stopped us after Mass and said “WE Don’t do that HERE!”. When I asked what , he said “YOU KNOW WHAT”. and walked away.
      My father’s family raised eyebrows at our marriage, but patronizingly accepted my wife because “well, at least she’s Catholic”.
      It’s taken 10 years,but the parish she works in has finally accepted her.
      Our Archdiocese has a only a couple of African-American priests and because I was in the seminary, I know them and they sometimes feel very out of place.
      Oh and placing African priests in African-american parishes to throw them a bone is not a good idea. They tried it here and attendance dropped because those priests are too culturually different and many feel superior to their parishioners and they feeling is mutual.
      In short, a white European Church that know nothing about and disdains other cultures with this country is NOT going to get many converts among them.

  • Des Farrell

    I’m confused on this one Mark, not sure what your point is….?

    • She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

      His point is that we need more evangelization period, not just evangelization that focuses solely on a particular ethnicity or racial group. Our Protestant brothers and sisters focus on evangelization and equipping the laity to evangelize. It is a massive focus for them and as such, they are very good at it. Part of their success in it is because they focus so heavily on it and partly because the vast majority of them do it out of a passionate love for Jesus and a desire to bring more souls to Him.

      • Dave G.

        Thank you for saying it that way. It’s nice to see. Not all Catholic comments describe it that way.

  • BHG

    Mark! The proper response is: Go organize one! Seriously, nice one!

  • Dave G.

    There hasn’t been a concerted effort of outreach to bring anybody into the Church.

    Before I clicked on the article, that was exactly my answer. Sure, there are some who try, but when I came into the Church, I felt like I was trying to break into the White House. Not just not outreach, but at times almost obstacles to overcome.

  • capaxdei

    We shouldn’t ignore the role racism — including institutional racism (e.g., segregated religious congregations) — played in keeping the numbers of black American Catholics low even back in the days when Catholics believed the Church had a missionary role.

    • IRVCath

      Right. Prior to the 1920s there were scads of black Catholics. But we alienated a lit of them by joining in segregation efforts. Borne of a desire to “fit in” and “Americanize” the Church. A tonic against full-blown nostalgia.

    • Alex

      back in the days when Catholics believed the Church had a missionary role


  • KM

    I agree that there’s not been a concerted effort of outreach to bring anybody into the church, but there was a small concerted effort to keep people *out* of the church. With Pope Francis, I think and hope that this is changing.

  • Mark R

    Not too long ago, I do not know about now, the Catholic Church was #2 for blacks after Baptist. But one had to remember that blacks are spread out in lots of denominations, that being #2 loses its force.
    There is implicit racism, but there were also explicit confrontations with racism…such as earlier pre-Vatican II popes who wanted Catholic schools to be desegregated (to be met by schools being burnt down). And blacks often have the idea that Catholicism is a white religion, ususlly in areas where the Church had a heavy ethnic presence.
    I’m from the D.C. area where I have long been familiar with a heavier black Catholic presence than elsewhere, but they are far from the majority. Besides the obvious (Christ) the Church had something to offer them…like better schools (once) and perhaps a less countryfied version of Chritianity for those who held city jobs. The circumstances have changed since the days of modest black Catholic growth. Besides the important “thing” (Christ) the Catholic Church does not have a lot else to offer ordinary people, let alone blacks, nowadays…The schools stink, and the tedious, hypercatholic discussions on the internet and among professional Catholics puts off ordinary people and obscure the most important “thing” (you know Who).

  • Joseph

    *Outreach* is a protestant idea. The Church contains the fullness of the Truth. It is a beacon on the hill (sorry, the US isn’t), so it doesn’t need to *sell a product*. The product sells itself to anyone seeking the Truth.
    When I started *inquiry* of my own free will as an intrigued anti-Catholic, I warned the Franciscan priest who lead the RCIA program that I wasn’t there to be converted, I was just questioning. His response was something along the lines of, “You came to me, I didn’t hand you some pamphlet at the mall. You’re free to come or go whenever you want. I don’t convert anyone, only the Holy Spirit does that.”. Coming from a Protestant background, I couldn’t believe this response. I’m used to an instant panic to try and *sweeten the deal* to get me to stay. It was awesome.
    Many parishes in the South and in Texas have large *black* concentrations. I don’t think it’s necessarily a racial divide but rather relative to demographics. Even in Detroit, the closer you get to the inner city the more blacks there are in the congregations. From what I’ve seen, the demographics in Catholic churches pretty much mirrors the demographics of the parish.

    • chezami

      Matthew 28:19-:20 is not a Protestant idea.

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