There will be no waiting around for members of Milwaukee’s Black Catholic Community to get a draft version of the Black Catholic Pastoral Plan into the hands of Archbishop Jerome Listecki.
They will present him with the 25-page document on the first day of Black History Month in an event Thursday, Feb. 1, at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, 1927 N. Fourth St., Milwaukee. There will be a gathering period at 6 p.m. and the program starts at 6:30 p.m.
“Black Catholics are an invisible population in the Catholic Church,” said Dr. Shawnee Daniels-Sykes, who was the chairperson of the committee that put the plan together. “It’s not like we haven’t been here. You can see the representation is not there around the table. How can we can make ourselves aware?”
The Pastoral Plan is an outgrowth of the archdiocese’s 2014 Synod, which called for cultural diversity initiatives. The last Black Pastoral Plan for the archdiocese was written in 1987, according to Daniels-Sykes.
“Our hope is it will be evaluated every three to five years as we move forward,” she said.
After the Synod, Bishop Donald Hying called together the steering committee and Archbishop Listecki walked the committee through putting the plan together. Daniels-Sykes estimates her committee worked on the document for two and a half to three years.
“We had to find out who were the right people to be around the table,” Daniels-Sykes said.
There were 16-20 people on the committee, a number that fluctuated throughout the process.
The document outlines goals, provides a historical context, letters from the committee and the archbishop, history of Black Catholics in the Catholic Church and the archdiocese, and a pastoral plan. The key part of the plan is five goals and strategies, including vocations, evangelization, racism, social justice and formation throughout a person’s life span.
It was modelled after the plan of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, and Daniels-Sykes said the plan is a general implementation plan for the staff at the archdiocese to assist with.
“The priority is young adults,” Daniels-Sykes said. “That’s going to be a tough, tough piece.”
She noted mergers of churches and the elimination of parishes is not just a problem for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, but rather one that spreads across the United States in Black Catholic communities. She said that consolidation has left holes in the community.
“Black Catholics have been part of the Church but have been marginalized,” she said. “There’s been a lack of follow-up.”
The pastoral plan is a step in the healing process and toward giving Black Catholics a more prominent seat at the metaphorical table.
“There’s a lot of work to do to bring all minority groups back to the center,” Daniels-Sykes said. “It’s bigger than dialogue; it’s about significant change.”
The process will take another step forward when the plan is handed off to the archbishop.