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The Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord

"Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word" (Mt. 2:1-12).

Simple words spoken out of desperation, panic, fear, and disdain, but also out of shock and ignorance of the situation presented, though they seemed benign, were sinister. These words, "Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word," were spoken by King Herod to the wise men before they departed to look for the baby Jesus. Ironically enough, these exact words are used today as well, not to find the Christ who is our light and our salvation, but to ascertain a missing piece of our church, our Black Catholic young adults. And if we're being honest, we can't say that the people asking this question aren't asking the question under similar circumstances. Not to the effect of causing harm to them, but still desperate, disdainful, panicked, and fearful.

Unfortunately, the church today may not be ready for the answer to the question where are the Black Catholic young adults gone? Why aren't they in church? The answer is they've gone where they are appreciated. Several of them have made homes in other Christian families. Which begs the question, "Why?" There are numerous reasons, but a few common points are lack of proper leadership and incomplete Catechesis. This generation is not a "because I said so" or "because that's how we've always done it" group of people. Throwing words like tradition and ritual around without reasoning has little to no effect on them whatsoever. This generation isn't afraid to walk by faith. But, then again, how much "faith" is being taught, and is the person learning the faith knowledgeable enough to answer questions that the young adults ask? Are catechists willing to study to respond to more demanding and accurate answers? There's a lack of awareness and accountability for those who have been pushed out, ostracized, and mistreated.

So, where does this leave us? What would you do to get Black Catholic young adults to come back? What are you willing to do to bring them back? Time is of the essence, and we are an aged community. We must seek them where they can be found, starting at home. We must talk with our family members and try to catch those on the fringes before they are lost.

A wise elder once told me people are only leaving the church because the doors are open so they can leave and SEEM locked when they try to come back. He went on to say that there didn't used to be closed doors to the places of worship back in the day; there were swinging doors, and eventually, the doors became what they are today: locked. There were no doors because, at any time, your place of worship could be your refuge without any hindrance; all you had to do was walk into a sacred place. In your church, you would be given refuge and respect; it's no longer a common practice today for numerous reasons. Before we ask where people are, are we sure that our places of worship are "welcoming" sanctuaries?

As we start 2024 and hear King Herod's words, we should caution ourselves to reflect on what we are asking and why we are doing so because we don't have the luxury of being wrong.

Author: James Conway, Currently Parish Council President at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, Baltimore, Maryland

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