June 7, 2022 // Diocese

Joint conference of Black Catholic clergy to be held at Notre Dame 

For the first time in its 32-year history, the Joint Conference of Black Catholic clergy, religious and seminarians is scheduled to be held at the Morris Inn on the University of Notre Dame campus from July 24 to 28. With the theme of “Walk Together with Children,” taken from an African-American hymn, the focus of the conference is on trauma; how ministers heal from it and how they help others to heal.

Deacon Mel Tardy, President of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus and Associate Advising Professor at Notre Dame, explained the significance of the conference being held at the university for the first time. “We Black Catholics are far too often an afterthought in the mind of the Church – but to do our thinking at Notre Dame might bring more attention to the particular needs, concerns and gifts of Black folk both in and out of the Church. Some issues include evangelization, systemic racism, sainthood and vocations.”

The event is the joining of four organizations: The National Black Sisters Conference (NBSC); the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus (NBCCC); the National Association of Black Catholic Deacons (NABCD); and the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association (NBCSA).

Portions of the conference will be public, including an opening reception on Sunday, July 24; an opening Mass on Monday, July 25, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart; and a Harambee closing banquet on Thursday, July 28. Mass will be celebrated by Most Reverent Shelton Fabre, Archbishop of Louisville, and attended by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.

With 150-175 participants anticipated from across the country, Deacon Tardy explained that the private parts of the conference will involve each of the four joining organizations holding “separate, regular business meetings,” joint meetings of the organizations and social gatherings for all to “joyfully affirm one another in our respective vocations and organizational missions.”

The mission of this year’s conference, the first to be held in person since 2019 because of COVID-19, is: “As a fraternal organization dedicated to the spiritual, theological, educational and ministerial growth of Black Catholic clergy, religious and seminarians, we serve the people of God – particularly the members of the Black community – in order to more effectively meet their spiritual and social needs,” explained Deacon Tardy.

Anticipating that many who will attend have never been to the University of Notre Dame, Deacon Tardy is hopeful that the conference will be a catalyst for Black Catholics in the diocese to expose visitors from around the nation to concerns within the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and the good things happening locally for Black Catholics, including the Black Catholic Advisory Board and the Tolton Ambassadors of Indiana. It is also, of course, an opportunity to meet one another and share fellowship.

More information about the public events and the full schedule of the conference will be released as they become available. Deacon Mel Tardy can be reached for comments and questions at [email protected].


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