CHICAGO –– Fr. Kenneth Taylor, a priest of the Indianapolis Archdiocese, and Precious Blood Fr. Clarence Williams, who is currently stationed in the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, were elected president and vice president, respectively, of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.
Elections took place at the organization's meeting in Chicago, held during the July 28-Aug. 1 joint conference of the clergy caucus, the National Black Sisters' Conference, the National Black Catholic Seminarians' Association and the National Association of Black Catholic Deacons.
The National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus is an organization based in Montgomery, Ala., that brings together black Catholic priests and religious brothers, and deacons and their wives to provide mutual support and to advocate for the black community.
The immediate past president of the clergy caucus is Josephite Fr. Anthony Bozeman, currently stationed in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Other officers elected at the Chicago meeting were: secretary — Divine Word Father Antoine Leason, currently stationed in the Chicago Archdiocese; treasurer — Deacon Jerry Lett, of the Atlanta Archdiocese; and board members – Marianist Fr. Paul Marshall, currently stationed in the St. Louis Archdiocese; Deacon Larry Chatman, of the Diocese of Oakland, Calif.; Redemptorist Fr. Maurice Nutt, currently stationed in the Chicago Archdiocese; and Fr. Norman Fischer, of the Diocese of Lexington, Ky.
Others elected include: deacon representative – Deacon Joseph Connor, of the Seattle Archdiocese; and religious brother representative, Friar Douglas McMilan, a Conventual Franciscan who is currently stationed in the Baltimore Archdiocese. Also elected was Mark Bristol as president of the National Black Catholic Seminarians' Association, an affiliate of the clergy caucus.
During the joint conference, more than 200 black priests, deacons, women religious and seminarians joined community members the evening of July 29 for a march for nonviolence in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood.
Even though the march was planned a year earlier, the ongoing gun violence in the city made it timely, organizers said. The joint conference comes together annually and usually schedules some sort of public witness during their gathering.
"Because of the violence in Chicago, we decided last year that we wanted to do something outside of the church so that people could see that we could come out in the community and march for a peaceful day to support our sisters and brothers – both Catholic and non-Catholic — who are trying to bring a peaceful end to the violence here, in particular, in Chicago, but which is endemic across the country," said Fr. Bozeman.
Sister Roberta Fulton, a Sister of St. Mary of Namur, who is president of the National Black Sisters' Conference, said the news often reports about the violence in Chicago so the march was a way to stand up for peace.
"We wanted to be able to say to the community, 'It isn't always about violence, but we are working for peace and justice,'" Sister Fulton said.
Following the march, the group gathered in front of St. Benedict the African-East Church for a short prayer service where youth read off the names of the 216 people who have lost their lives to gun violence in the city of Chicago so far this year.
Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George joined them for a blessing at the end of the service. Participants went inside the church afterward for a Mass celebrated by Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry, one of the country's black Catholic bishops.
During the homily, newly ordained Fr. Dwayne Davis from the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., asked the congregation to consider what their legacy will be for the next 45 years of the joint conference of their respective organizations. This year marked the 45th anniversary of the joint gathering.
"We must continue to be role models within our black community," Father Davis said.
Contributing to this story was Joyce Duriga, editor of the Catholic New World, newspaper of the Chicago Archdiocese.