The new president of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus calls the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and specifically St. Augustine Parish, home. If someone had told a young Melvin Tardy he would not only become a deacon when he grew up, but president of the NBCCC, he never would have believed it, though.
Deacon Tardy said he did not consider a religious vocation until attending the Black Catholic Clergy Conference in Atlanta, hosted in part by the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus. There, he encountered a man on fire for ministry: a man who, he was surprised to learn, was not a priest, but a deacon. Tardy was inspired to explore his own path to the diaconate, becoming ordained in 2011.
Deacon Tardy joined the Black Deacons Association and found fellowship with African American religious. Through them he reconnected with the NBCCC, where he learned of needs within their pillars of education, evangelization, vocations and organization. He created and proposed a strategic plan of ways in which the NBCCC could better address these needs.
The response he received was all too familiar: “Why don’t you do it?”
Upon the implementation of his plan, Deacon Tardy became vice president of the NBCCC. Due to the unexpected death of Father Kenneth Taylor, he found himself in the role of president of the NBCCC in December 2018.
Deacon Tardy has found these first six months to be a humbling experience as he has grown into the role, learning more about the role and the organization.
The NBCCC, he explained, was founded in 1968 after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The NBCCC encourages and supports black clergy and seminarians, who then return and nurture the Church in her black communities, spiritually and socially. They also educate the Church about ministry to black communities and engaging them in faith.
The NBCCC established November as National Black Catholic History Month and re-established the National Black Catholic Congress that began in the 1800s. The organization has contributed new perspectives to the Church’s wealth of theological understanding. It is currently made up of about 300 clergy, religious and seminarian members, and its mission is alive and well today, growing to reach new members and foster fraternity. “That fraternal part of it is a big part of what it means to be a part of the clergy caucus,” stated Deacon Tardy.
The NBCCC also works to connect local communities to their resources and support young black priests through their new website and social media presence. Members can connect online through the website’s member directory.
One honor of this connectedness and fraternity is the ability to celebrate the transitions of fellow members. Recently, Deacon Tardy found himself participating in the historic installment of African American Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.
“I was made aware that typically, when there is an African American bishop being installed, the caucus will do a prayer service the night before. So I booked a flight to Washington D.C.”
Deacon Tardy was excited to present the new archbishop with Afrocentric vestments crafted by Father Melvin James. His excitement mingled with surprise when he realized that an apostolic nuncio would also attend, and that, in addition to bishops, there would be a handful of cardinals present. In his words, “that’s part of the things I’m getting accustomed to” as president.
He calls this kind of experience “a very special privilege and opportunity” and is continually humbled by his role. Deacon Tardy hopes to expand the familiarity of communities everywhere with the NBCCC, so that the organization might expand while it continues to offer resources, encouragement and knowledge.
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