Parishes invited to national African-American evangelization conference

The Office of Black Catholic Ministry for the Diocese of Jackson is one of the sponsors for the 2016 Interregional African American Catholic Evangelization Conference (IAACE) this summer and has a limited number of scholarships available to parishes.
The theme this year, ‘You are my witnesses,” is taken from Isaiah “You are my witnesses, declares the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen so that you may trust me and understand that I am the one.”
The conference brings together presenters from across the nation to talk about evangelization from a variety of perspectives. Organizers use the National Black Catholic Congress’ youth and young adult principles to structure and guide this conference every year.
Keynote topics include using social media, how to bring dying parishes back to life, becoming an inviting and welcoming church, apologetics without apology, reaching inactive black Catholics, and sacred movement. Will Jemison, director of the diocesan Office of Black Catholic Ministry, is a featured speaker  along with ValLimar Jansen, Father Anthony Michael Bozeman, SSJ of New Orleans and Sister Gwynette Proctor, SSND, from Baltimore.
“Our major goal is to ensure that the common thread of what it means to be a witness will permeate every aspect of the conference. This conference will provide excellent resources and life-giving faith experiences,” wrote the conference founder, Annette Mandley-Turner in her welcome letter.
“This event is a wonderful opportunity to hear from some of the best voices in African American evangelization from across the country,” said Jemison. His office is encouraging all parishes to participate.
The conference will be held Friday June 10-Sunday June 11, at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Ky. Registrations received before May 15 will cost $150. A hotel rate of $129 per night is also available until that time.
The day before the conference, ICCCE will offer a one-day institute for lay ecclesial ministers. The institute costs extra, but offers continuing education credits in three tracks: youth ministry, leadership for evangelization and formation.
To register, call J. Vincent Johnson, 901-634-0037, or email Those interested in getting financial assistance to attend should contact Jemison, 601-949-6935, or email at Scholarships will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Civil rights attorney to speak at MLK event

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney famous for representing both the families of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, will headline this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial event at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, Sunday, Jan. 11, at 3 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Diocese of Jackson and organized by the Office of Black Catholic Ministry.



Crump is a partner at Parks and Crump, LLC, based in Tallahassee, Fl., and a graduate of Florida State University School of Law. He gained national attention representing Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Sanford Florida, but Crump has been involved in civil rights cases for many years. Many of his cases involve violent altercations with police.
Crump represented a college graduate who was shot in the back during a traffic stop and the family of a boy who was killed after being restrained and suffocated at a Florida boot camp. He is currently representing the family of Michael Brown, a teenager shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Mo. A grand jury recently declined to charge the officers involved in the case. Both the shooting and the grand jury decision sparked widespread protests, some of them violent.
“During the 1960s Civil Rights movement the religious leaders and the attorneys led the fight for equal rights. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We must unite and be the drum majors for justice,’” said Crump.
The Catholic Church in Mississippi was particularly active during the Civil Rights Movement, operating schools and learning centers and speaking out against violence such as the assassination of Medgar Evers.
“I invited Ben because I think his experience translates in to the sort of call for our faith communities, large and small, to continue the fight for social and economic justice in our communities in Mississippi,” said Will Jemison, head of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry. “The Catholic Church in Mississippi has consistently shown its willingness to stand up for what’s right and just and having someone on the national scene share his experiences in fighting against institutional injustices and prejudice seems right for our time,” said Jemison.
Jemison is planning an interfaith event and would welcome groups from any other faith traditions. For more information contact Jemison at 601-949-6935.

Presentation offers update on Tolton cause

JACKSON  – Brother Gerard Jordan, O.Praem, presented the story of Father Augustus Tolton at Christ the King Parish Saturday, Nov. 8. Brother Jordan is traveling the country on behalf of Bishop Joseph Perry, of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Bishop Perry’s diocese is sponsoring Father Tolton’s sainthood cause.
The Office of Black Catholic Ministry brought the presentation to Jackson. In late September, the archdiocese sealed up all its research about Father Tolton’s life, evidence of two alleged miracles and countless favors into a formal packet to go to the Vatican for the next step, confirmation of the research and verification of the miracles. Part of this step in the journey is for advocates to travel the world, telling the story of Tolton, the first African American diocesan priest in the United States. “Rome has to hear from you,” said Brother Gerard. “You are the church. If you don’t want this to happen, it won’t,” he added.


JACKSON – Brother Gerard Jordan, O.Praem, brought a presentation about Father Augustus Tolton to Christ the King Parish Saturday. Nov. 8. The priest is a candidate for sainthood. (Photo by Maureen Smith)

Father Tolton’s story has all the drama and intrigue of a classic American adventure tale. Born into slavery at the cusp of the Civil War, Father Tolton’s brave mother ran away from her owners with her three tiny children in tow. When they were stopped at the Mississippi River by a group of Confederate soldiers, it looked like the group was doomed. A troop of Union soldiers stepped in. The two groups agreed they would put mother and children into a boat in the Mississippi River and it would be up to Martha Tolton to try and get to freedom on the other side.
“The boat was old, they only gave her one oar, the Mississippi River is huge and Martha Tolton had never rowed a boat in her life,” explained Brother Jordan. “When she was half way across the soldiers started shooting at them. (Tolton) said she never missed a beat. Can you imagine? Three babies and a mother who had never been in a boat,” Brother Jordan added. The family made it to shore and eventually settled in Quincy, Illinois.
The pastor in Quincy tried to put 14-year-old Tolton in the parish school, but the white families rose up against him. He was educated by nuns who agreed to tutor him separately. He had a similar experience when he tried to enter seminary. He and his pastor wrote letters to every seminary in the country, but none was ready to accept an African American.
In 1872 letters to the Vatican and help from numerous priests and faithful resulted in his admission to the Collegium Urbanum de Propaganda Fide in Rome. He studied in Rome for six years, spending extra time studying African culture and languages since he assumed he would be sent to Africa as a missionary. He was ordained at Easter in 1886. The cardinal in charge of assignments sent Father Tolton back to Quincy, where hundreds came to his first Mass.
Father Tolton was assigned to St. Joseph Parish in Quincy. Although the parish was meant to serve the African American community, crowds of both white and black faithful came to hear Father Tolton. The pastor at the white parish, St. Boniface, complained to the bishop several times. Father Tolton, frustrated and upset, finally asked to be moved. He opened St. Monica Parish in a storefront in Chicago in 1891 and began raising money for a real structure.
Father Tolton would never see the church completed. He died during a heat wave in July 1897 at the age of 43. In his 11 years as a priest he had attended five gatherings of the Black Catholic Caucus. “Thousands lined the streets of Chicago when he died. Thousands more lined the train route when his body was sent back to Quincy,” said Brother Jordan.
How is it that Father Tolton was so famous at the time of his death, but now very few know his story? Brother Jordan said racism and a lack of promotion caused him to fade into the background, but that now is a critical time for Father Tolton.
“The work begins with you. You have got to tell the story,” he urged. Brother Jordan outlined four priorities for the faithful who wish to support Father Tolton’s cause. “The first and foremost is to pray, asking God to prove to the world that heaven and earth made a connection through the intercession of Father Tolton,” said Brother Jordan. “The second thing that needs to happen is catechesis,” he said. Brother Jordan also brought prayer cards and books for everyone, paid for by Father Ricardo Phipps, pastor of Christ the King. The third step is to tell the story, especially to children. Finally, said Brother Jordan, is to pay the cost for all the research and verification, currently at $264,000.
Brother Jordan closed by saying he has written a plan any parish or group can use to establish small groups who will pray together and share Father Tolton’s story. Father Phipps said he would like to establish a group at his parishes and will start spreading the word in the coming weeks.
Those who wish to learn more about Father Tolton can visit the website