The fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
"You are the light of the world" (Mt. 5:13-16)
Today marks the 33rd National Day of Prayer for African Americans and African Families. Once a ceremonial ritual drawing together families on the 1st Sunday of February – Black History Month – we start with Holy Mass and follow with a family
meal and other activities. Established by Fr. Jim Goode OFM, of happy memory, and the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus (NBCCC), the Day of Prayer was supported by an annual theme, reflection and suggestions for action. This was to be a moment for celebrating the legacy of our families, to reminisce and pass on those stories with the children and grandchildren.
Yet today, who attends Mass anymore? I see elders seated alone or gathered with friends. You may catch a sighting of solo young adults, seasonal sacramental preparation classes and a few parents managing wiggling youngsters. Who honors the Sabbath these days but the dwindling faithful remnant and new converts?
COVID certainly decimated already low numbers attending Mass, marrying in the Church, baptizing their children and burying the dead. My recent visit to an upscale senior living community revealed a trend of adult children opting not to have a funeral for their deceased. Then there are those families that long ago released personal ties to “the Church” but request a Christian burial for their elders with all the traditional expectations. Although religious detachment and skepticism impact all cultural and faith groups these days, I am laser-focused on Black people, particularly Catholics.
While many of us are blowing with the wind, God is constant and ever faithful – full of love, merciful, just, ever watchful, all-knowing, and also judging. The public murder of Tyre Nichols is another assault on the Black community. It brings into focus Anti-Blackness AND its ride-or-die cousin, the self-loathing demonstrated by many of our people.
Why aren’t our children learning how to think and evaluate information in school? Why such a chasm between generations and simultaneously a blurring of generational roles? What do couples need to safely commit to marriage or grasp the tools available to continue the journey? How do we define a successful life? By prioritizing families in our parishes and pastoral ministry, I am convinced that such questions can be answered. God has given us everything we need to build and sustain strong healthy families whatever their present configuration.
One emerging strategy in archdioceses, e.g., Louisville,
Baltimore and Milwaukee, is the establishment of parish hubs for spiritual, pastoral, academic, and social service ministries. I invite you to visit their websites for a description of what they are doing. For instance, in the Archdiocese of Louisville, I visited the Catholic Enrichment Center (CEC), which offered family counseling, a men’s prayer group, elder wellness and exercise classes, computer training, a food pantry, community meeting space, and more. What can we do with the resources in the Archdiocese of Washington and in your pastoral context?
The Institute for Black Catholic Studies (IBCS), parish/diocesan training programs, and a plethora of other resources build knowledge and skills that the community needs now. Here’s what we must do: Worship together in the community, study and pray, practice the 7 Principles of Kwanzaa (Nguzo Saba), commit to loving everyone, be the light of Christ in our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces; honor the elders, protect and teach the children and vow to cherish and nurture our families. Let us truly pray from the heart for our families now.
Author: Donna Toliver Grimes, USCCB, Assistant Director, African American Affairs
Detroit has similar programs that Louisville offers. The links for the Archdiocese of Detroit are below: