SPECIAL TO THE CATHOLIC HERALD
Karen Hill arrived at All Saints Parish early for the Black Catholic Pastoral Plan Mass on Sunday, Nov. 17, in excited anticipation for what the culmination of the plan means for the Black Catholic community in Southeastern Wisconsin.
Parishioners from all over the Archdiocese of Milwaukee have become invested in the project over the past three years of its development. Hill, who attends St Francis of Assisi, comes from a long line of cradle Catholics who have devoted their lives to the service of Chris
t’s Church. When her children fell away, she was heartbroken. She said, “A lot of us have seen our kids not come to church with us and it hurts, but we keep praying and days like today feel like the miracle we’ve prayed for.”
Hill believes that the Black Catholic Pastoral Plan, which aims to be a means of action focuses on evangelization, formation, leadership, vocations, sacraments, liturgy, and social and racial justice, will bring change to the way black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee look at the Church. She believes it will bring them back in droves.
“The work has just begun,” she said, “but, both my son and daughter have seen it and, thank Jesus, it has brought them back every Sunday when I didn’t know if anything would.”
Fessahaye Mebrahtu is the new director of the Black Catholic and Ethnic Ministries, and as a member of the steering committee and the implementation team, was one of many who played a large part in the formation of the Black Catholic Pastoral Plan. He said what makes this plan unique is that it’s forward looking with an emphasis on evangelization, but also because it celebrates and acknowledges the rich legacy and vision of the Black Catholic Community.
“We hope it will bring a better understanding of the spirituality of Black Catholics and what we bring, and have brought for many years, to the Church,” Mebrahtu said. “It goes into detail about the long road we’ve traveled as Catholics, and the ways we have shared our gifts and talents even when we weren’t as accepted as we are today.”
Following the Mass, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki was formally handed the pastoral plan. He thanked the many members of the committee and the community who gave their time and heart to respond to Pope Francis’ invitation to missionary discipleship, including Bishop Joseph N. Perry, who was the first African American pastor of All Saints, and Bishop Jeffery R. Haines. He also thanked more than two dozen members of the steering committee and the implementation team for their work on the Black Catholic Pastoral Plan.
In his homily, Archbishop Listecki reminded all who were gathered that we’re brought together by Jesus Christ as a family, and that even though we’ve not always taken responsibility for our brothers and sisters as we should have or been as accountable as Christ wants us to be, we can see our duty to each other in the Gospel and we can start today by carrying out the mission of the Black Catholic Pastoral Plan that has been so lovingly crafted to build disciples and draw in the lost.
He went on to reference Matthew 25:35-36: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” He followed that up by asking, “How can you go before those words of the Gospel and not examine your own life and ask how you’ve contributed to this?”
In closing, Archbishop Listecki spoke of the sacrifice Christ makes on the altar every time a Mass is said, and the offering of life and love that he reaches out to us to sustain us on our journey through life. “So now the question is,” he said, “how will we respond to what he’s given to us?”