When Vevette Hill Nwagbaraocha decided to continue her higher education, she signed up for the Cor Unum (One Heart) program at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology.
The program is a Master of Arts pathway, with an emphasis in systemic theology, that identifies and develops lay leaders with the courage to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s reconciling love in word and action.
“I have for a long time wanted to pursue studies in theology as a way of enriching my faith journey and discerning God’s plan for my life,” she said. “Sacred Heart’s Cor Unum program spoke to my heart when I read, as part of their mission ‘… to heal a fractured world.’ That seemed to describe what I feel I’ve been put on this earth to do.”
As a member of the Black Catholic Ministry Commission (BCMC), Nwagbaraocha said she wasn’t sure when she began the program how her education would be used in her ministry. While she still isn’t completely sure, she said social justice is a big component for her and in her ministry as well as the overall Catholic mission.
“And as a Black Catholic, I know that God is calling me to serve in a way that addresses the fractures in my own faith,” she said.
Another goal of the Cor Unum master’s program is to develop a profound encounter with Jesus Christ through the study of Scripture and Tradition, leading to a greater passion for the renewal of the Church and world. One aspect that is of primary focus for Nwagbaraocha is equality.
“Black Catholics have the same struggles (that) people of color have struggled with for far too long, racial equity. Most painful is that as Black Catholics, our struggle is parallel to those within our society,” she said. “Catholics have been known to be on the front lines in our call for justice; it’s what Jesus calls us to do. Although our presence can be seen in the protests, we Catholics have been painfully silent from the altar in our radical denouncement of racism. Jesus is who we have modeled our faith journey after.”
A member of All Saints Parish, Nwagbaraocha is a mother of three young adults and works as the manager of the McGovern Park Senior Center. She adds that the ministry of Jesus is the perfect example when serving others.
“In radical love, he spoke up for the powerless and spoke out to the powerful,” she said. “The BCMC is working on implementation of the Black Catholic Pastoral plan, a plan that has been commissioned by the archbishop. It is just the beginning, but we hope to fight the good fight with radical love and meaningful progress.”