By Maureen Smith
GREENWOOD – Parishioners from half a dozen parishes across the diocese gathered at St. Francis of Assisi Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6-7, for “Many Saints, One Church,” a black Catholic day of reflection. The weekend featured a music workshop Friday evening and a whole day of reflection Saturday.
Friday night was all about music with a presentation by Roger Holland, the current artist in residence at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Saturday, Will Jemison, coordinator for the diocesan Office of Black Catholic Ministry, gave an update on the sainthood causes for four American black Catholics, urging those gathered to pray, donate to the cause of their choice and educate others about the causes, which include Father Augustus Tolton, Mother Henriette DeLille, Pierre Toussaint and Mother Mary Lange.
Annie Richardson of Indianola St. Benedict the Moor Parish said she always learns something new when she attends conferences. “I was unaware of the black Catholics who were up for sainthood. I did not know there is not a black Catholic saint from the United States so now I know I have something to work for and something to pray for,” she said.
Dr. Timone Davis, an instructor at the Augustus Tolton Pastoral Ministry Program, part of the Catholic Theological union of Loyola University, Chicago, led two sessions Saturday. In the afternoon session, she encouraged people to make a desert in their lives and find some time to spend there. This was the first in her three steps to becoming a disciple. Step two is to get to know yourself. This step, said Davis, takes what she calls detox, stepping away from things that distract you such as games, electronics and anything that keeps you busy, but are not fruitful.
She challenged the audience to describe themselves in 10 words or less, focusing on questions such as ‘what gives you hope, how many other people know what gives you hope?’ The final step is “living your purpose in this world,” said Davis. It comes out of a guiding principle and could be art, teaching, doing service, whatever it is a person is called to do.
The congregational health ministry team from Greenville Sacred Heart Parish set up inside the school and offered a free basic health screening to anyone who wanted one. The screening included a check of blood pressure, weight, waist size, body mass index, cholesterol and blood glucose. Marilyn Williams, who heads up the team, said the checks help not just the individuals getting them, but the community as well. The program is funded through a grant from the Mississippi Health Collaborative. The data gathered goes to the Centers for Disease Control to help paint a picture of how people in different communities are faring.
“If you look at statistics as far as health in the state, Mississippi always falls near the bottom, if not at the bottom so this is a way of knowing where people are. We give them follow up instructions if they have a doctor or if they need to get in to one,” said Williams. Her team includes nurses and a social worker who can help refer people to services they may need.
Richardson said she is taking her enthusiasm back home. “Many years ago we black Catholics gathered at Sacred Heart in Greenville and as a culminating event we attended the National Black Catholic Congress in Chicago,” she explained. “It was such a dynamic experience and I wanted to be a part of it again and I want my children and grandchildren to be able to share the experience that I had – so I have already told them that we are all going to attend the National Black Catholic Congress this summer wherever it is and we will have our family reunion there,” she added.
“I was always trained that you have to know where you came from in order to plot your course and know what your responsibilities are, to know where you are going and how to get there,” said Richardson, who converted to Catholicism after she married a Catholic.
By Maureen Smith